Emilia and Teo live as though they were brother and sister. Teo’s mother Delia died when a bird hits the plane is flying, but Emilia’s mother, Rhoda, the wing-walker survived. Devastated by the death of her best friend Rhoda returns to her parents farm and retreats to her bed while she mourns. Eventually, though, she begins to live again and decides that the family should go to Ethiopia. That is where Teo’s father was from. He died in WWI but Delia always wanted to go there, a place where Teo’s skin wouldn’t make him stand out. A country that was never colonised by Europeans.
And so Em, Teo, and their Momma head for the continent of Africa. But this is the 1930s, and war is coming. Mussolini is moving his forces in Africa and he has his eye on Ethiopia.
The story is told through a series of essays and flight logs that Em and Teo keep as they grow up. It details their life with Delia and Rhoda, and after, in America and in Ethiopia. But it begins almost at the end, with an introduction by Em, address to the Haile Selassie I, Emperor of Ethiopia, so you have some idea of where the story is going.
And as it is told by both our narrators it has alternating first person narration. If this is something you don’t like then you are missing out a great book.
I first read Wein when I read her Code Name Verity which is a book that you should read.1 . This book isn’t as emotionally hard hitting, it is a much more complex book in some ways. It covers racism and prejudice as well as war and love and death and tragedy. And, as expected from Wein, characters that are just so real and alive you wonder how she managed to create them at all.
This is very different in some ways from Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire but it really does highlight the fact that I would read just about anything that Wein writes. I do still have to get back to her Arthurian/Ethiopian series, but I enjoyed the two books in that series that I’ve read so far. And I love that she has set so many of her stories there. It is a place that I am only familiar with in terms of marathon runners and famines, so it is great to see it depicted in such a positive manner. Not always positive of course, every where has its problems and flaws, but in a realistic manner, it is great to see books set in African countries, with actual African characters. I know, both Rhoda and Em are white Americans, and Em, in my mind, is the more dominant of the two narrators, but Teo certainly has a voice all of his own, and his own perspective on things.
actually I should reread it because it was just plain great ↩