The memoirist and journalist Alexandra Fuller had nine novels rejected before she decided to try nonfiction. Her first attempt, a memoir of her unconventional childhood as a white girl in pre-revolutionary Rhodesia, became a bestseller and launcher her career. But she never gave up on fiction entirely, and now, after several more award winning memoirs, the writer has published her first novel.
Set on a Lakota Sioux reservation in South Dakota, the book tells the story of two cousins who choose different paths to adulthood. Writing in a preface of the book, Fuller, who participated in a cross-country horseback ride from Nebraska to South Dakota with several hundred Native Americans, explains “to be back among people who know Time the way I’d known it as a child was to find myself shocked into a completely unexpected homecoming, if home is where your soul can settle in recognition.” To learn more about the countries and continents Fuller called home before her journey with the Sioux, check out her previous memoirs.
An African Childhood
Fuller’s first memoir tells the story of her singular, at once bruising and joyful childhood growing up in central Africa. Born in the UK, she soon moves to Rhodesia with her parents, and spends her formative years in Zambia and Malawi as well. The family’s farm is attacked, Fuller is threatened by wild animals, and, most devastating of all, three of her siblings die in childhood, including a sister who drowns while Fuller is watching her. Yet she remembers Africa with fierce tenderness matched only by her devotion to her uniquely spirited family.
Travels with an African Soldier
By the time Fuller was an adult Rhodesia had become Zimbabwe and her parents had moved to Zambia. On a visit home, she became interested in one of her parents’ neighbors, K – a banana farmer who fought in the Rhodesian war. In this book, she travels back through her former country in an attempt to make sense of the war and understand the experience of K – and by extension, all of the Africans, white and black, who lived through the violence of the country’s fight for independence.
Fuller returns to her own family in this memoir of her mother. Nicola Fuller was a remarkable woman capable of staring down a cobra and raising a family in the African bush. She was also an alcoholic, and in this tender recollection the writer traces the difficult life and tremendous losses her mother suffered, while at the same time celebrating the indomitable spirit that was always up for another adventure.
When the writer met a man who could navigate rapids in a raft and soothe a stampeding elephant, she figured she had finally found someone who could keep up with her. For many years Fuller and her husband, an American safari leader named Charlie, had a good life, first in Africa, then in Wyoming. But eventually things fell apart, and in this book, Fuller details the dissolution of her marriage while recalling happier days with Charlie, as well as writing elegiacally about the Africa she left behind for life in the American west.