Set in 1970 Tanzania, Essie Lawrence and husband are on an archaeological dig site where they are researching the origins of the human species. Essie is approached by an Indigenous Hazda man who asks her to care for his newborn, orphaned granddaughter temporarily. The baby is not welcomed by her husband or her mother-in-law, and her priorities change as she bonds with the baby, and she makes some life-changing decisions. The mystery of her husband’s brother (missing since childhood), and the search for evidence of the first human ancestor are other subplots.
“You are her mother in this moment. The future is another time.“
“Mama Mzuri. Beautiful Mother.”
“Essie leaned back in her chair, a mug of black tea resting on her knee. She gazed out through the open front of the tent. In the early morning light the rocky plain below the camp was painted in smudgy tones of brown and grey. Away in the distance she could see the silver gleam of the lake. Rising up behind it was Ol Doinyo Lengai. A wreath of cloud drifted across the summit, hiding the cap of strange white lava that looked like snow.”
This is a very enjoyable story with well-developed characters and an interesting plot that moves along smoothly. Strong themes of motherhood and cultural belonging are woven skillful through the story, and the parallels the author made with Tanzanian and Tasmanian First Peoples added depth and interest. Highly recommended.
Readings: “An exquisite and heart-piercing story of one woman’s bond with a baby, The Beautiful Mother will resonate with every parent, crossing time, place and culture. It is an unforgettable exploration of what it really means to be a member of the human family, revealing the deep need we all have to find our own tribe.”