Published by Skyhorse Publishing
Published: January 19th, 2021
Categories: Southern Fiction / Rural Fiction / Mystery
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The seemingly never-ending Cabinda War (1975—) has left multitudes dead in its wake and thousands of children homeless and orphaned.
Jackaleena N’denga, a young Angolan girl, has become the sole survivor of one specifically brutal village massacre carried out by a band of guerrilla boy-soldiers.
Jackaleena’s resilience leads her to an orphanage on the west coast of Africa, known as Benguela by the Sea, where she and other children are taken in and protected. Her brilliant mind and endless questions capture the heart of her mentor, Margaret, who ensures her that her survival thus far—especially being the survivor from her village—must mean she has big things ahead of her. When the opportunity arises, she must find her purpose.
Not without a plan, Jackaleena stows away on a mercy ship that has made its yearly visit to the orphanage and is now preparing to return to America. Her journey takes her across the ocean, into the arms of New York City’s customs officials, and finally into placement in a temporary foster home in Texas.
Enter Alfie Carter—a workaholic, small-town detective who is also battling memories of his past. His life is forever changed when he meets a young African girl looking for her higher purpose.
is an affecting story of finding faith and of losing and rediscovering deeply-held beliefs. With its characters examining the state of their spiritual life, it’s a timely read for this holy season of Lent. It is also a tale of harrowing cruelty, extraordinary bravery, careless disregard for others, incredible kindness, and unbelievable acts of forgiveness..
Despite the singular name in the title, this book recounts the lives of two people in places thousands of miles apart–Jackaleena N’Denga in Angola and Alfie Carter in Texas.
Jackaleena’s remarkable story is tough to read in the beginning because of the gruesome massacre she witnessed and the extreme difficulties of her desperate run for survival. Things improved after she’s led to Benguela by the Sea where she learns a different way of living and is taught about another higher being to trust. This is also where she develops her search for her purpose in life.
Alfie’s situation is not as shocking but he has his own losses to contend with, particularly the death of his child. It lead him to distance himself from his wife and turn his back on the unfair God who wasn’t there for him at many points in his life. It was interesting that it was also death that caused him to reevaluate his thinking and return to his wife and to believe again.
Mr. Mayo’s writing shone in the Texas scenes, in Alfie’s musings, in his investigation of the case he was working on, and in the spirit and strength he imbued into Jackaleena’s character. His own faith leaped off the pages of the book through various characters like Margaret, Rufus, and Cotton.
God gives us all a chance to believe in Him and serve Him or not. He does not force you to go down that path … You can simply walk away. All of us are free to do what we want individually. There ain’t nobody a-draggin you to God … His yoke is easy and his burden is light.
The book has some flaws. Some scenes about Alfie’s early life could have been cut short or deleted altogether in favor of expanding the parts where he and his adopted daughter interacted. It was a curious choice to have Jackaleena’s story narrated in the third person and Alfie’s in the first when the book started and ended with Jackie telling her background to the judge. I preferred it in the reverse. Finally, the book requires suspension of disbelief in many instances in the story, especially with regard to the result of the case that Alfie was working on. That or, have extreme faith in the goodness of man.
Overall, it’s an involving story that has uplifting messages. Thanks to Lone Star Lit and Skyhorse Publishing for providing a free copy to review.
BJ Mayo was born in an oil field town in Texas. He spent the first few years of his life living in a company field camp twenty-five miles from the closest town. His career in the energy industry took him to various points in Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Louisiana, Bangladesh, Australia, and Angola West Africa. He and his wife were high school sweethearts and have been married for forty-six years with two grown children. They live on a working farm near San Angelo, Texas.
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