Monday, December 2, 2013

A Different Sun – A must read!

Elaine Neil Orr’s debut novel, A Different Sun: A Novel of Africa, is a grand achievement, indeed.

I first encountered Orr’s fiction in early 2009 when I reviewed the Winter 2008 issue of Shenandoah, in which her story “Tennis Lessons” appeared. I found this story to be penetrating, nuanced, and richly detailed. A few months later, I had the good fortune to meet Ms. Orr when she joined the faculty of Spalding University’s MFA in Writing program, where I was then working on earning my MFA. Let me assure you that the fact that I got to know and admire her has no influence upon my impressions of her novel.

Other readers have noted that A Different Sun is adventuresome and gripping, with life and death stakes – they are correct, this novel is one that you will find impossible to put down. The story concerns a young, Southern girl, Emma, who we first encounter in 1840, in Antebellum Georgia. Emma falls in love with marries Henry, a missionary twenty years her senior, and travels with him to Nigeria, to help him with his missionary work – introducing Christ to the Africans.

The novel brilliantly illustrates the challenges that arise from the vast differences in culture and climate between the American South and the completely different landscape of Africa and its people. And while this exploration is compelling and fascinating, the heart of the novel is as moving and trenchant an exploration of the institution of marriage I’ve encountered in modern literature. The soaring highs and the deeply painful lows that accompany many (if not all) marriages are rendered in exquisite detail and depth in Orr’s prose.

I couldn’t put this book down and I am eager to read it again, after taking a little time to linger in its glow.

Get this book. Read it. You won’t regret it.


Brian Russell  

1 comment:

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