It's difficult to define this ambitious story revolving around the African nation of Zambia: Part historical novel, part magical realism, part science-fiction, part examination of the impact of colonialism.
It begins with Percy M Clarke, a British photographer who's on a mission to follow the Zambezi River to the coast. It ends in a near future where Aids vaccines are embedded into people's skins with microdrones. A huge array of oddball characters populates the pages and, in essence, it's a multigenerational saga starting with three vastly different women.Sibilla is an Italian hotelier coated in hair. It covers her entire body and despite shaving three times a day, it always grows back; Agnes is a blind English rose who falls for a young Rhodesian history scholar and is banished by her racist parents; Matha, meanwhile, is a native Zambian training to be an Afronaut.
When she's left pregnant and destitute it sets off a decades-long crying binge that leads to her offering her bottled tears to an unsuspecting guest. (The Zambian space program was real. It was launched at the height of the Cold War, much to the mockery of the West). The three women, their daughters and grandchildren are followed through the decades, with their lives running parallel, sometimes intersecting and finally colliding.
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