Hello to the Cannibals

Written by Richard Bausch
Review by Pat Maynard

On the evening of her 14th birthday, Lily receives a book on the life of Victorian explorer and writer, Mary Kingsley; meets Dom, a young man destined to become a very integral part of her life; and undergoes a traumatic experience that will haunt her for years to come. Both the book and the traumatic experience have an immediate and profound effect on Lily, the former inspiring a major goal for her future, which is to write a play about Mary’s life, while the latter rips away her childhood and all of its accompanying illusions in one fell swoop. Lily and Dom’s initial contact on the night of her 14th birthday matures into a strong and lasting bond of friendship when they reconnect in college some years later, a facet of which ultimately creates a major upheaval in their lives and the lives of all their loved ones.

Throughout the novel, the author weaves a rich tapestry of contrasts between history’s Mary Kingsley and the fictionalized, modern day Lily Austin via imaginary letters between the two and flashbacks to various periods in Mary’s life. And, although Lily tells herself the purpose of this imaginary correspondence is only to intensify her own feel for Mary’s life in order to write a more meaningful play, her true motives obviously go much deeper than that. In addition to captivating storytelling, the author’s excellent research of the Victorian era and Mary Kingsley’s life is evident from start to finish. Highly recommended.