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Bennett, Jo Anne Williams.

Toronto, McClelland and Stewart, c1986. 316pp, cloth, $22.95, ISBN 0-7710-1185-7. CIP

Reviewed by Ruth Cosstick

Volume 15 Number 3
1987 May

"Downfall People" is the name of a decrepit bus that carries an assortment of produce and people to a remote village of West Africa. Among them is Likki Liddell, a Peace Corps volunteer. To escape an unsatisfactory life, Likki has opted for the unknown. Immediately plummeted into a world of witchcraft, personal vendettas, and political strife, she is first an observer, then very quickly a courageous (foolhardy?) participant. Armed with strong sociological views, Likki is forced to re-evaluate her opinions as she debates with those more experienced in the African-Muslim culture.

Amidst a colourful cast of characters the most engaging is the young entrepreneur who attaches himself to the newcomer, commandeering her aid in his grandiose schemes. Abu's unscrupulous machinations are reminiscent of the wily scamp, Monsieur Emile, of Yves Beauchemin's Alley Cat.* Abu is not looking for parenting, as is his Canadian counterpart. His dream is to acquire the orphaned baby Comfort as his bride. The morality of buying a child bride is just one of the many ideas with which Likki must wrestle as she becomes more deeply involved in the struggles of this alien community.

As a graduate researcher in Africa, Jo Anne Williams has written her first novel, a Seal Book award winner, from firsthand knowledge of the culture and culture shocks she describes so vividly. Sorcery mingles with civilization in a land savagely torn between the two. Many questions are posed with no answers forthcoming. The "Downfall People" bus traverses a bumpy route, providing the reader with a fascinating and thought-provoking journey. Recommended for mature readers.

Ruth Cosstick, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ont.

*Reviewed vol. XIV/5 September 1986 p.215.

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