Busara Road

Written by David Hallock Sanders
Review by K. M. Sandrick

Soon after the death of his mother, 11-year-old Mark Morgan relocates with his father, Reece, from Philadelphia to Kwetu Quaker Mission in Kenya. Distant from his father because of grief and Reece’s travel and work schedule, Mark must fend for himself in an environment of red dust and shimmering green jungle, screeching birds and bleating goats, smells of dung and smoke and sweat.

Mark makes new friends at the mission school – storyteller Raymond (Radio), ruffian Darrell, and emotionally scarred and mercurial Layla. He takes a job at the post office/general store/barber and auto repair shop Industrial Center, and learns the dangers of the still waters of Mwezi, the subtleties of bargaining for goat’s milk, the meaning of the scrape of the rhinoceros, and the characteristics of his spirit animal, the leopard, from houseman/cook Chege.

Mark’s story is one of adventure and discovery, friendship and enmity. His education moves beyond books and blackboards to recent Kenyan history: the remains of the Kazi camp of huts and torture pits where Radio was born and spent the first six years of his life, the actions of Kenyan Home Guard loyal to British colonial rule, and freedom fighter Mau Mau during the Kenyan Emergency of the 1960s.

Mark experiences the warmth and exuberance of Kenyan family and friends as they celebrate Jamhuri Independence Day and witnesses the flash of retribution exacted on an oppressor. His time on Busara Road is an awakening not only for him, but for readers as well.