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Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Last Resort: A Memoir of Zimbabwe


Douglas Rogers’ parents run a backpacker lodge in the eastern mountains of Zimbabwe near the edge of the Mozambique border, -- in a place called Mutare. His folks are one of the last white land owners in Zimbabwe, whose lineage goes back 300 years on the African Continent. In September 2009, Douglas Rodger published his remarkable story of how his parents had to adapt or die in their homeland, --- their LAST RESORT! I cannot help but wonder if his folks are still living there!

Book Review by Debra Ginsberg

Although Zimbabwe has been the focus of several recent books (When A Crocodile Eats the Sun and The Boy Next Door to name two standouts), there is room on the shelf for Douglas Rogers's The Last Resort, a lively, wry, but deeply heartfelt account of the country in which he was born and raised and his efforts to rescue his parents from the escalating chaos of Mugabe's regime and the mounting danger they faced on the family farm.

A New York journalist, Rogers returned to Mutare, Zimbabwe (located at the edge of the Mozambique border) in 2002 after hearing of violence erupting around Mugabe's land reclamation program, which reassigned white-owned farms to dubious "war veterans." Arriving a few days before an election, Rogers found his parents (owners of Drifters, a highly successful backpacker lodge featured in the Lonely Planet guides) unfazed and optimistic about an imminent shift in political power. But as soon becomes very clear, the election is rigged to favor Mugabe, and dissenters are punished severely. Despite increasing violence, outrageous inflation and the exodus of almost all their white friends (in fact, almost all whites), Rogers's parents won't consider leaving their mountainous, beautiful farm (which Rogers describes in exquisite detail). They are true Africans, Rogers's parents maintain (their families have lived on the continent for 350 years), and they will not be forced off.

As the years pass and conditions degenerate, Rogers's parents are forced to adapt and survive in creative ways. On a subsequent visit, Rogers finds that his father has begun growing marijuana and that the lodge is doing a brisk business as a brothel. Rogers also finds that his parents have accumulated a posse of quirky characters with whom they do business; among them a black market money launderer, diamond dealers and political opponents. Despite their tenacity and resilience, however, the Rogers's farm becomes a target and they find themselves in very real peril.

Rogers creates a vivid, multilayered portrait of Zimbabwe; maintaining a keen eye for beauty as well as the absurd. His journalist's drive to uncover the real story is evident in the textured descriptions of Zimbabwe's people, history and even its landscape. He succeeds in creating a narrative that is informative, moving and often very funny. Perhaps what makes this memoir so compelling, however--beyond the attention it calls to the dire situation in Zimbabwe--are its subtle but striking comments on family, country and identity.-- Debra Ginsberg

Shelf Talker: A fascinating view of Zimbabwe as told by an expatriate journalist who goes home to help his parents.

Douglas Rogers Website

THE BOOK MAY BE PURCHASED AT:

Amazon.com (USA)

or...

Kalahari.net (South Africa)

Format: Hardcover (Illustrated)
Publisher: Harmony
ISBN: 9780307407979
Publication date: September 2009
Length: 240mm
Width: 166mm
Thickness: 28mm
Weight: 535g
Pages: 309

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