The Atlas of Forgotten Places
From author Jenny D. Williams, a fresh new voice in fiction, comes her stunning debut novel The Atlas of Forgotten Places. Set against the backdrop of ivory smuggling and civil war in Uganda and the DR Congo, it is a story of two women from different worlds, bound in a quest to save their loved ones.
“Every page of The Atlas of Forgotten Places resonates with an intimate knowledge of life in ‘Africa’...the impossible beauty of the landscape, the depths of sorrows carried by ordinary citizens, the miraculous melding of violence and personal grace. Jenny D. Williams has written that rare thing: a page-turning adventure story that simultaneously goes deep into the heart of what it is to be human and present.” —Malla Nunn, award-winning screenwriter and author of A Beautiful Place to Die, Silent Valley, and Present Darkness
After a long career as an aid worker, Sabine Hardt has retreated to her native Germany for a quieter life. But when her American niece Lily disappears while volunteering in Uganda, Sabine must return to places and memories she once thought buried in order to find her.
In Uganda, Rose Akulu -- haunted by a troubled past with the Lord’s Resistance Army and a family torn apart by war -- is distressed when her lover Ocen vanishes without a trace. Side by side, Sabine and Rose must unravel the tangled threads that tie Lily and Ocen’s lives together—ultimately discovering that the truth of their loved ones’ disappearance is inescapably entwined to the secrets the two women carry.
The Atlas of Forgotten Places is a book that delves deep into the heart of compassion and redemption. It spans geographies and generations to lay bare the stories that connect us all.
Gritty and intricately plotted, Williams' debut novel, set in the war-torn Uganda of 2008, gets under the surface of recent political turmoil and the relationship between East Africa and Western aid organizations. Alternating chapters follow Sabine, a former aid worker who has returned to Uganda from Germany to look for her missing niece, Lily, and Rose, an Acholi woman who has a past with Lord's Resistance Army and bears physical and emotional scars from her war experiences. When it turns out that Rose's lover Ocen has disappeared with Lily, she and Sabine form an unlikely rescue group, accompanied by Christoph, a cultural anthropologist studying in Rose's town. Their search will bring them into dangerous territory where a surprise military offensive against the LRA has recently forced the rebels from hiding. In the midst of struggles and atrocities so large and all-encompassing, the narrative sometimes gets away from the more interesting personal stories. But overall Williams's book paints the contours of the real-life conflict admirably, making the thrilling disappearance story relatable with nuanced characterizations and a wealth of strong subplots concerning reclaiming love, protecting family, and guarding hope for a new future when the present seems to be teetering on disaster.