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Two seven-year-olds, one black, one white, who discover the desperate secrets of their parents, form an unbreakable bond. To stay together, one stands up and takes rocks that are being thrown at the other; one steals a horse and rides one hundred miles to be with her friend; one kills to understand why the father of her friend killed her father and grandfather (Oh yes, the old Mau Mau Rebellion!) Fathers are the metaphor and fathers are the catalyst for a wild tale in a wild country.


The year is 1993. Dak is still wanted for the killing of David Sommers. He has been hiding in Arusha at the center for handicapped artists called Shanga. Back in Dar es Salaam, his estranged girlfriend, the black Reena, is raising his now seven-year-old daughter, Safina, whom he knows nothing about. Reena, in the opening, sees Dak’s son, Kiiku, hiding among some broken-down buildings by the street market and becomes alarmed. She has tried to make a life without Dakimu and has not told Safina much about her father.

Soon after acknowledging Kiiku in the marketplace, Reena admits to him that Safina is his half sister. The girl is a bright, curious, generous child who befriends a lonely white girl, Suzanna Farley, at a British military post where she’s been invited by the white girl’s father to visit the horses. Suzanna has a terrible birthmark on her right cheek and should be starting the second grade but has never been to school. Her mother, Felicia, is petrified of black people, but Suzanna is quite infatuated with Safina and longs to be the black girl’s friend. Neither child really knows her own father, and that’s where the theme of absent, secretive, damaging, denying, and yet sometimes remorseful and reconciling fathers begins.

Suzanna’s biological father is DAVID SOMMERS, one of the white men Safina’s father, Dakimu, killed in self-defense in 1985! The girls only learn this after years of cherished friendship and attempts to keep their heads above the dark waters stirred up by the adults in their lives.

Kiiku has had a few good years with his father on the run but has veered away from Dak’s remorseful ways, joining a militant group called the Chui Clan.

Safina determines to find her father herself if no one will tell her where he is.

Suzanna’s stepfather is the British major, Fulsom Farley, who married Suzanna’s mother, Felicia, when she was pregnant with the girl and who has been chasing the fugitive Dakimu for years.

Father Amani knows everyone’s secrets but cannot reveal them.

In this novel, the power of Safina’s and Suzanna’s friendship rises above the secrets and brings the adults closer to their own resolutions.

A wild leopard, a metaphor of hope and trust (and whatever the reader wants to make it), appears to Dakimu and will guard him and the people he loves through this and the next novel, Thirst. Enjoy the photos. He is very real, at home with humans and uncaged.