Heath Crowley is an Australian man, born with two different coloured eyes and the gift—or curse—of having premonition dreams. He also has nothing left to live for. Twelve months after having his life upended, his dreams tell him where he needs to be. So with nothing―and no one―to keep him in Sydney, he simply boards a plane for Tanzania. Not caring if he lives or dies, Heath walks into a tribe of Maasai and asks to stay. Granted permission, he leaves behind the name and heartbreak of Heath and starts over with the new Maasai name of Alé.
From the day of his birth, Damu has always been an outcast. The son of the chief and brother to the great warrior leader, Damu is reminded constantly that he’s not good enough to be considered a man in the eyes of his people. Ordered to take responsibility for Alé, Damu shares with him the ways of the Maasai, just as Alé shares with Damu the world outside the acacia thorn fence. But it’s more than just a cultural exchange. It’s about trust and acceptance, finding themselves, and a true sense of purpose. Under the African sky on the plains of the Serengeti, Heath finds more than just a reason to live. He finds a man like no other, and a reason to love.
It was twelve months on. A full year had passed, yet my world had stopped completely. The men who stole my life were charged and would serve time for their crime. No one called it a hate crime, but that’s what it was. If I was expecting some sort of finality to come with the court findings, I didn’t get it.
I was still hollow. I was still numb to the world, and I was still alone.
I was also awarded damages, civilian victim and medical.
A nice healthy sum that meant I could pay off my debts after not working for twelve months, and more. Though no amount of money would make this right. No amount of money would bring him back.
My mother came along for the final hearing, though I could only guess why. I had barely spoken two words to her in the last year. Maybe she came so she could vie for the sympathy card with her friends. Or maybe she thought she could have one last twist of the knife…
“Now it’s all over,” she said, nodding her head like her words were wise and final. “You can put all this homosexual nonsense behind you.”
I looked at my mother and smiled. I fucking smiled. I raged inside with a fury to burn the world, and maybe she saw something in my eyes―maybe it was a ferocity she’d never seen before, maybe it was madness―and my words were whisper quiet.
“You are a despicable, bitter human being, and you are a disgrace to mothers everywhere. So, when you go to your church group, instead of praying for my soul, you should be praying for yours. You have only hate and judgement in your heart, and you are doomed to an eternity in hell.” I leaned in close and sneered at her. “And I hope you fucking burn.” I stood up and stared down at her. She was pale and shocked, and I did not care. “If you think my words are cold and cruel,” I added, “I want you to know I learned them from you.”
I walked away, for the final time. I knew I’d never see her again, and I had made my peace with that.
I didn’t care for the money. I didn’t care for anything. I longed for sleep, because in my dreams, I saw him. And that night, almost one year to the day since he was gone, in our too-big bed, in our too-quiet flat, in my too-alone life, I dreamed of Jarrod.
He sat on our bed and grinned. I longed to hear his voice, just once. It’d been a year and I craved the sound of his voice, his touch. But when I reached out for him, even in my dream, as in my waking nightmares, he was gone. I sat up in our bed, reaching out for nothing but air. He was gone, really gone.
But in this dream, on the bed were he’d sat, was a plane ticket. Mr Heath Crowley, it said. One way ticket to Tanzania.
I was a little nervous about reading this book once I learned what it was about. If I am asked to read an NR Walker book, I do so without even asking for the synopsis…if she wrote it, I’ll read it. I was warned that this book isn’t for everyone. So with much trepidation, I dove in. And I will admit that after the prologue, the next 30 – 35% of the book read like a social studies textbook while we learned the history of the Maasai people. And I will also admit to skimming through some of it. I will also admit that there were some things that made my stomach a bit queasy when reading but I tried not to focus on those as much as how difficult and different things were in this village. But at about the 45 – 50% mark, I couldn’t put the book down. I don’t want to give too much away but when they flee the Damu’s home I literally didn’t blink until almost the end of the book.
While I was reading about Heath adapting to live in the Manyatta/Kraal it didn’t really dawn on me how much he was giving up and how little he learned to live with until they left the village. And as Heath showed the wonders of the modern world to Damu I was just as wide-eyed as Damu was as he experienced these things for the first time. I was utterly fascinated as I was shown just how little Damu lived with and how much Heath was actually suffering until they were brought back into the modern world.
It was remarkable to watch Damu discover himself and his sexuality with Heath’s help. Their love story was so raw and innocent that it was absolutely refreshing. They literally needed each other to truly live. The last couple of chapters were absolutely, endearingly perfect and I’m so glad I took a chance on this book.