Kathy's Reviews > Listening for Lions

Listening for Lions by Gloria Whelan
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's review
Jun 26, 2010

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bookshelves: children, historical-fiction

A charming story... reminds me of some of the shirley temple movies, where little shirley is charming, falls on hard times, has people wanting to take advantage of her, but her good character connects her with the right people, and all comes out right at the end...

Rachel lives in Africa in the early 1900's... with her missionary doctor & teacher parents (who had been raised in an orphanage, and as adults were trained and sent out by the orphanage that raised them to work in the mission)... She loves Africa, and her life there. Her mother teaches her, she helps out at the hospital, and she lives free in her environment...

But when she is 11,influenza comes, and both her parents die... and the selfish/evil parents of a rich, white family nearby lose their daughter to influenza... so they come up with a scheme to send her as their daughter to his rich father in England (who had disowned him) in an effort to manipulate his father to accept them back & give them money. Rachel is frightened about going to an orphanage, and they tell her that the old man will die if she does not go to him... so she agrees, with reservations.

She vacillates on telling the truth, but the elderly man seems to really need her, and she does not want to cause his death... they spend 6 months together ... and she is his eyes, to go out and catalog and enjoy the birds of his land, and to report back to him ... and she tells him tales of Africa...

When the selfish parents come to England, with the intention of taking advantage of his father, whom they perceive to be weak... but he sends them away... and they take Rachel with them, as a pawn... before they leave, the butler gives Rachel a note & a pound, and when she reads it, it is from the grandfather telling her to go to the lawyer if she has need of a friend.

She immediately tracks him down, and tells him the truth... and finds out that he and the grandfather knew almost from the beginning that she was not his granddaughter, but he couldn't love her more and wants to adopt her... and she meets the lawyer's sister, a feminist.

She goes to school, and keeps grandfather company as much as she can...
and under the lawyer's sister's encouragement, has dreams of becoming a doctor and returning to Africa to open her father's hospital...

And after she graduates from school with honors, she returns home to nurse her grandfather... and has the opportunity to tell him of her dream ... and when he dies, he leaves her a substantial amount of money & investments... she goes to school to become a doctor (there were a few because of the need the war caused)... she meets some resistance on being a woman, but applies herself, and at the age of 23 is certified, and returns to Africa... to continue her parent's work... the book ends with a list of trials & tribulations she is likely to be faced with as change is coming... but with the reminder that the name of the hospital translates to hope...

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