The Warm Heart of Africa, fifty years in the making, is the story of Susan, one of the first Peace Corps Volunteers. It is also the story of Peter, a ninety-two year old African who became her salvation. She meets him soon after attempting to quit the Peace Corps...but failing. Peter is at first reticent to talk of his past, for fear of opening old wounds. With time, he learns to trust and slowly shares his stories with Susan, beginning with, "My father was the first man to see Livingstone and he almost killed him!"
Later he tells her how Yao slave traders invaded his village when he was six, burning houses and killing the very old, the very young and the weak -- those who would not endure the cruel march to the Indian Ocean. He recalls the bitter memory of a slaver dragging his mother from his grasp to be sold for a sultan's harem, never to be seen again.
He then shares with Susan how he and his father were auctioned at the slave market of Zanzibar and crammed into an Arab dhow sailing to Yemen, to be sold once again, his only consolation being that his father was still with him. Two days in, a frigate fired a shot across the bow and Arabs began throwing their cargo into the sea in the grim hope of out sailing the frigate. Peter, too small to be of notice, watched in hiding as an ugly Arab hurled his father into the sea. Then a cannon shot from the frigate demasted the dhow, hurling him into the sea. Unable to swim, he survived by clutching the splintered mast until he was plucked from the sea by men in blue coat who brought him back to their frigate where he took his first step in his twenty-one years in the service of the Queen. As major domo to a young officer, Horace Smith-Dorrien, he would come to see battle against Zulus, Afridis, Pathans, Boers and Sepoys, before returning home to start a life in the service of God, a story he slowly and painfully shares with Susan, like him, a stranger in a strange land.
The author met Peter and was Susan.
About Kevin M. Denny
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Published August 23, 2011
History, Literature & Fiction.