06 June 2013

Which one are you? aka MMMM Book Review

When I was in Haiti, I often said that the stress of it all would end up making everyone a smoker, alcoholic, adulterer or anorexic. Or all 4.

One NEEDED the vices in order to just keep a grip on reality.

Ok, if you were really smart, you would just channel it all into a good workout at the gym. Or actually learn to escape – physically, mentally, emotionally (Cocoye trip anyone? Or how about even a day at Karibe, where we can pretendlike we don’t know that loud group of Americans or MINUSTAH sitting next to us?).

And then Disastrous Passions began – a blog documenting the Harlequin-romance-like life of young aid workers in Haiti, falling in and out of love and lust. And it was like someone was following my life! Well, maybe not mine… but it was like a Gossip Girl-esque entity had arrived in Haiti and began documenting all the gossip that emerges out of the need to escape and all the debauchery that ensues.  And who doesn’t love to find out what’s reallyhappening around outside of the office.

“Gossip Girl here. Your one and only source into the scandalous lives of Petion-ville’s aid workers.”

Not that it was true…or so the author, J., wants us to believe. But some of it sounded distinctly familiar to REAL stories I was hearing around town.

Well… Real or not, this blog-turned-book (yes, I was most definitely was one of the first to purchase it) was written by someone who knew. An insider who was telling the story in a jargon that only those who knew as well would understand.

I must admit I have read it a few times…sometimes when you were sweltering alone in your room in Leogane, hoping that the mosquitoes didn’t get too bad, that the inverter would stay on so you could keep entertained by your computer / internet, and daydreaming (or night dreaming) about that hot, loggie Irishman you just met, a read of the self-proclaimed humanitarian romance fiction was just necessary.

Buy the book here!
So when the author contacted me and asked if I would review the next instalment in the series, Missionary, Mercenary, Mystic, Misfit or MMMM, I quickly jumped on board. Ok, I was EXSTATIC! Find out what happens next to Mary-Anne and Jean-Philippe? Yes please!

And yet again, this book feels like it is telling the story of my life. It picks up after Jean-Philippe, the established, French aid-man, had moved from Haiti to Nairobi to be with Mary-Anne, the innocent, American programme officer and love of his life. But Mary-Anne is pulled away to Dolo Ado, Ethiopia and the Somali refugee response, while Jean-Philippe traipses around the world attending “life-saving workshops.”

Mary-Anne is faced with new situations, new faces, and potentially a new man – the classically named, Jonathon Langstrom. The book’s abstract reads (an excerpt): “Now, with a new organization in Dolo Ado, Ethiopia, she struggles to balance life, love, and career in the wake of ARRA’s decision to open a new refugee camp at Bur Amina. Will this new opportunity stretch her to the breaking point? Or will she rise beyond the challenges? And what will become of Jean-Philippe? Will their prolonged separation cause their hearts to grow fonder? Or will she find comfort in the arms of the mysterious, brooding Jonathon Langstrom?”

Now, I don’t want to spoil the book for you all aid workers who are going to (i.e. should) read it.

But it’s good. And no, J. didn’t pay me to say that.

Ok, honestly, sometimes it is quite negative and/or snarky – BUT anyone who has ever worked in a response knows that there is a heck of a lot of negativity. And J’s reputation of snark precedes him.

And sometimes it a bit dramatic – but AGAIN, for anyone who has been there, drama tends to travel ahead, around and behind any semi-effective emergency response.

BUT… And now the real buts start…

This novel is not written for the general public. Seasoned aid workers may get annoyed with it. But it’s not attempting to provide answers – nor should it! It’s fiction. But for those of us who are living the humanitarian life, whether you are at the beginning, middle or end of your career, will recognise yourselves or others in it.

There’s a lot of reality in the book. It deals with the questions that every aid worker has asked themselves at one point or another. It deals with the career move questions that we all ponder. It talks aid philosophy, work-aid-life-balance, that odd disconnect we have as ‘expats’ living with ‘national staff.’ It talks about the states that all humanitarians end up in at one point or another – as Missionaries; as Mercenaries; as Mystics; as Misfits.

And, of course, it ends ‘To be continued…’ as all of our stories (i.e. lives) do.

And we have J, our own Gossip Girl, to tell it. ("And who am I? That's one secret I'll never tell. You know you love me. Xoxo, GossipGirl")

Although, J? I most definitely did NOT agree with Mary-Anne: “The St. George was just okay. Better than Prestige. Not quite as good as Tusker.”

I haven’t tried St. George. But Prestige is DEFINITELY better than a Tusker.

What I wouldn't give for a nice, cold Prestige right now. Or maybe some Barbancourt…

And, please stop following me around, writing/predicting my life. It's getting awkward.

Just in case you didn't get it from all the links above...
Missionary, Mercenary, Mystic, Misfit Facebook Page: Here
Missionary, Mercenary, Mystic, Misfit on Amazon: Here
J's Author Page on Goodreads: Here

And 2 more reviews here and here...and more to come this month!

1 comment:

  1. Interesting review - thanks!

    Out of interest, why don't you think it's a novel for the general public?