'Bill Bryson's African Diary'
By: Bill Bryson
(Hardback / 49 Pages / Broadway Books / ISBN: 0767915062 / $12.00)
Description: Bryson visits Kenya at the invitation of CARE International, the charity dedicated to eradicating poverty. Kenya is a land of contrasts, with famous game reserves and a vibrant culture. It also provides plenty to worry a traveller like Bill Bryson, fixated as he is on the dangers posed by snakes, insects and large predators. It is also a country with many serious problems: refugees, AIDS, drought, and grinding poverty. The resultant diary, though short in length, contains the trademark Bryson stamp of wry observation and curious insight.
Verdict: I enjoyed reading this "slender volume," that merely scratches the surface of life in Kenya. Through his CARE escorts, Bryson sees and describes a country that most tourists either never see and (even after visits to East Africa) do not know exists. I have seen the slum Kibera from a passing train and the smell and noise perforated the train walls as we rumbled by. That Byrson walked the streets of this enormous conglomeration of tin roofs and dung and garbage-filled alleys is amazing. Peppering in his fears and a little humor, he captures the despair and ultimately, the hopelessness. While Kenyan residents like to say there's always hope, anyone who has worked for CARE or is familiar with its tasks, realizes that there isn't much hope in changing the lives of those in Third World slums and refugee camps. I'm happy to know my purchase of this book made a contribution to CARE, because all we can really do is keep funding the attempt to improve these lives just a little bit. Mr. Bryson, I'm glad you made it through all those light aircraft adventures and look forward to reading more of your future work.
Reviewed by Martin VanDerSar