Aminatta Forna is the award-winning author of the novel, The Memory of Love. She was born in Bellshill, Scotland. Her father, Mohamed Forna, was from the village Rogbonko in Sierra Leone and her mother, Maureen Christison, was from Scotland. She spent time split between the two countries, due to her parent’s divorce. She has also lived in several countries, including Thailand, Iran, and Zambia, because her stepfather was a UN diplomat. This multiculturalism has become a crucial part of her identity and influenced her writing in many ways. She says “…when I’m talking of both cultures I use ‘we’ for both. I say ‘we British’ and ‘we Sierra Leoneans’ because I identify with both. I feel black in one place and white in another, which tells you a lot about human nature”. In an interview with BBC Africa she says, “my ideas for books really come from what I see… it isn’t books that inspire me, its life.” She certainly was influenced by her father’s death, as well as the civil war in his country. Her father, a doctor and the finance minister of Sierra Leone, was hung for treason while trying to bring democracy to his postcolonial country. Her background gives a keen look into the issues between Africa and the Western World which is reflected in her writing. She says “I was very much a tomboy and passed as a boy for a very long time…” which explains her somewhat masculine identity depicted in her works that often center around males.
Forna pursued a law degree from University College London and continued her education as a Fellow at the University of California Berkeley (Aminatta). However, she quickly discovered that she disliked law and began a career in journalism working with BBC for ten years. Her works include: The Devil that Danced on the Water, Ancestor Stones, The Memory of Love, The Hired Man, and The Angel of Mexico City. The Memory of Love is notable as the winner of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best Book and a finalist for the Orange Prize for Fiction. Ancestor Stones was the 2007 winner of the Hurston/Legacy Award for Debut Fiction. Her memoir describing the political demise of Africa, The Devil that Danced on the Water, was a finalist for the Samuel Johnson Prize. Aminatta’s books usually include themes of war, betrayal, memories, and how those effects unfold. However, she tends to end her novels with a glimmer of hope. Echoing her multicultural experiences, her writing reflects multiple cultures. In fact, her works have been translated into sixteen different languages worldwide.
Today, Forna continues to be a prominent member of society. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and a member of the Folio Academy. In 2003, she established a charity to help with “…the education, sanitation, and maternal health” in Sierra Leone. In 2014, she was awarded the Donald Windham-Sandy M. Campbell Literature Prize by Yale University. Forna is married to Simon Westcott, a British furniture designer. She splits her time between London and Sierra Leone, and holds the position of Lannan Visiting Chair of Poetics at Georgetown University as well as teaching creative writing at Bath Spa University. She is prolific on social media, particularly Twitter.
Aminatta Forna strongly dislikes labels. Being born to parents of different countries, cultures and languages, as well as spending her childhood traveling back and forth between Sierra Leone and Scotland, she never fit under a single label. She labels herself as both African and European, which makes her works difficult to classify. In The Memory of Love, she writes a fictional story, however it is set in Sierra Leone, and has connections to Britain just as her life did. Her background with both countries makes her novel much more powerful as the struggles and problems that come about in the book could occur in real life.
The Memory of Love is told from the perspective of two main characters, and bounces back and forth between the two from chapter to chapter. To make matters more interesting, there is about a thirty year difference between the two storylines. Elias Cole is an elderly man and a patient to Adrian during Adrian’s chapters, and is a younger man working as a professor during his own chapters. Having the entire story told from the perspective of two characters makes it interesting as well as we assume the narrators are telling the truth about the experiences they are having. In reality they could be lying and telling it as they want to see it, not as they truly do. This makes the narrators unreliable as the reader is unsure if what is narrated on is an accurate depiction of the other people’s thoughts/feelings. This is especially important when talking about the relationship between Saffia and Elias, as the reader only gets Elias’ thoughts on the relationship and not Saffia’s. This ultimately leaves the reader wondering how she truly feels. For example Cole says, “She had not told Julius of my visit, I felt certain. And that meant something. What possible reason could there be for her to keep the fact of it from him, but that she intended it to happen again” (70). These assumptions could be wrong and she might have told Julius (which we find out she does end up doing). As the story evolves, we begin to see connections between the two, and Forna does a great job of foreshadowing the consequences. For example, when Elias is young, one of his “friends”, Julius, suffers from asthma, and Elias allows Julius’ sickness to kill him, so he can take Saffia as his own. Later in another chapter, we learn Elias is suffering from a lung condition as an elderly man. The style in which this book is written is unique in the sense that the reader needs to be actively engaged in the book in order to see how the stories coincide and the foreshadowing of certain moments that will later affect the story.
The Memory of Love is a dualistic novel that primarily focuses on the life of Elias Cole. One half of the novel focuses on Elias’ love triangle between Julius, Saffia, and himself. The other half of the novel focuses on Adrian, a psychologist, and his friend, Kai, a surgeon. The novel is destined to intertwine the two halves of the story together, but for now this provides a preface to begin with the summary of The Memory of Love.
Chapter 1 begins with the illustration of Adrian sitting at the edge of Elias’ bed, listening to some sort of story. The story begins with someone who he’s fallen in love with based off of their whistling. Babagaleh, his servant, brings the whistler to Elias so he can see this woman who has swept him off his feet. Coincidentally, the ‘woman’ was indeed a man; specifically a builder. From there, Elias goes into deep description of Babagaleh. The story continues on with Elias Cole’s narration of his recollection at the faculty wives’ dinner. He continued to dawn upon the recollection between some man, Julius, and some woman, Saffia. They would both quickly become his main focus, regardless of the fact that at the time he has a girlfriend.
The story then transitions into the life of Adrian. The focus of Adrian begins with a somewhat awkward conversation between Adrian and one of his patients, then there is a ‘crazy woman’ who approaches him in the street and he seems a bit flustered because of it, and finally there’s a scene where Adrian receives a letter from Elias Cole. From here, Adrian is quickly woken up from the screaming of a woman giving birth. This is where Adrian’s friend, Kai, comes into the novel. They quickly got along and shared a large part of their lives with one another.
The dilemma between Elias, Julius, and Saffia quickly gains some ground. Elias just shows up to their house without Julius home and welcomes himself in. Shortly after, Julius and his friends, Kekura and Ada, come back home. They all partook in conversation, some casual drinking, and dancing as a result of the drinking. After this eventful night, Julius, Saffia, Elias, and Vanessa all went for dinner and drinks together. Throughout this scene it became quite obvious why Elias was there, stating “Saffia watched the blind man and I watched her” (42). This clearly portrays Elias’ obsession with Saffia regardless of the situation. In addition to that, Elias asked Saffia to dance with him as Vanessa and Julius watched them.
Transitioning back to Adrian and Kai, Chapter 5 begins by describing Adrian’s brief lack of success in the workplace on this apparent day. From there, Kai welcomes himself over to Adrian’s house as they have drinks and hangout with one another for the night. As the author Aminatta Forna states, “So a new friendship is formed” (51). After this welcoming night, there is a brief scene where Adrian is doing some therapy with Elias, asking him what a kite means to him. Elias goes off thinking about his hatred towards his brother as a child. The narration of the story converses back towards Elias’ thoughts and experiences with Julius, then to Elias’ thoughts on Saffia, specifying the moment when Saffia captured a picture of Elias. Elias wanted to be loved like Saffia loved Julius. In fact, he slept with a stranger after breaking up with Vanessa to fill this lonesome void he feels. Chapter 6 hints at the little bit of delusion Elias has towards life. In this specific instance, his delusion towards his writing capabilities. His writing had been denied publication. Around this same time in the novel, Adrian is spending quite some time thinking about his memories with his mother and father, his move from England to Africa , and ultimately how his wife, Lisa, was taking this all in.
Chapter 8 begins with another scene between Adrian and Elias. They have decided to meet once a week now. At the university class is out and on break. Elias meets with the Dean to discuss his paper and how he can switch things up. Later that night Elias goes to Banville Jones’ party. While he’s there he sees Saffia, Ade, and Kekura, but no sight of Julius. Saffia gives Elias a ride home from the party. They were stopped by a soldier then continued on. Saffia randomly stopped the car in an awkward manner and had Elias walk home from there. Forna describes Elias’ emotions as such, “I stood and watched the tail lights of the car shimmer on the wet road, grow small and disappear. I had a sense of having somehow mis-stepped” (77). Forna relays back to a scene at the mental hospital where Adrian beings his journey there. Adrian met with Ileana, Attila, and Salia. He was introduced to many different patients who needed help. In specific, Adrian had met Agnes on this day. From there, the novel goes on to expand on Kai’s line of work as a surgeon in the theater where he performs surgeries on those who need amputation because of the war.
There was another encounter between Adrian and Elias at their meetings, hinting at a picture of Elias. But that picture was from 30 years ago. Elias then goes back in time to his encounters with Saffia. He expands on the tension between the two of them after the party scene back a few weeks ago when she randomly dropped him off to the side of the ride to walk home. Julius comes storming into Elias’ office, not to yell at him but to rather smother it in his face that he knows he’s pursuing his wife. Julius implies this in only a way that Julius can, he just hands him the picture of Elias that Saffia had taken some time ago. Elias has begun to build up some hatred for Julius. There is then a scene between Adrian and Kai where the two of them are at the bar after work. There is a girl pursuing the two of them but they seem to ignore her. Rather they are in deep dialogue discussing Adrian and his wife Lisa, and then they discuss Kai and his ambitions with his friend Tejani, who is now pursuing his dreams in America while Kai is “stuck in Africa.” They are both in Africa.
Elias describes the beginning scene of chapter 13, as he and Julius went out for drinks and to the casino for the evening. One of the very few occasions they are together alone outside of the professional setting. The story line then shifts over from Elias, back to Adrian and the mental hospital. Here the reader again gets a glimpse of Adrian’s commitment to his patient Agnes as he again attempts to work with her. Through a conversation with a local, Adrian here’s that Agnes is believed to be “crossed” for the first time. Adrian briefly mentions Fugue as a possible diagnosis and describes it as a condition in which the body and the disturbed spirit are joined together. Kia, has just received a letter from his brother, Tejani. In the letter, Tejani extends an offer to Kia to come live and work with him, and Kia is considering jumping at the opportunity. The reader gets a glimpse of Adrian’s relationship with his wife as they read of phone conversation he has with her. The conversation is very minimal, business only, as Arian simply needs her to send over literature from his library back home. Through this interaction, Forna makes the tension between the two, and within their relationship extremely evident.
This leads to another chapter revolving around Elias. As Elias enters Julius’ house to deliver the chairs for the party, he hears a moan come from Saffia from the other room and instantly retreats through the front door. The reader then sees how strongly Elias struggles to get that experience out of his head. Adrian then finally receives good news that Agnes has come to and is “back in the real world” (137) to begin chapter 18. Agnes is overall coherent and responsive, however, she cannot remember why she is at the mental hospital, or how she got there. Forna then leads the reader back into a flashback of the moon landing party, as she gives a bit of insight to Elias’ character. As Elias is leaving the party, he sees his “date” with another man. Elias is intoxicated, and is infuriated by this, and proceeds to get in the man’s face. Elias then admits that he does not remember if a physical altercation ensued, or how he got home. He did however make it home safely, and the next morning, Saffia is at his house telling him that Julius has been arrested, and that is how the chapter abruptly ends. The reader then finds themselves learning that Elias has also been arrested in chapter 22. He has been taken in by the police for questioning, and has not the slightest idea why he is there.
On their way back to town from a nice day trip with Kia and Abass, Adrian sees a familiar face. He sees Agnes at the local market. He follows her and her daughter back to their house. Agnus eventually comes to the door, unfortunately for Adrian, however, she claims, “I am better now. The problems are gone” (204). Then she thanks him and walks away. Adrian then goes to leave, it is now dark, and on his way he gets knocked in the back of the head and kicked in the back. He falls to the ground, attempts to get up, crawls around on all four, and passes out. The book then switches the focus back to Elias, and the fact that he has been arrested. The chapter involves more interrogation by the man who arrested him, this time he brings up Ellias’ journal publication, Elias gives him an overview of the article, yet Johnson is not satisfied and sends him back to the holding room. The next day the Dean is there to speak to Elias, he says “Really, it’s a matter of coming to some arrangement with these people. No more than that” (213).
Finally, Forna pans back to Adrian, Kai, and Abass. Kai is searching for Abass and Kai, he finds Abass at a corner vender, but Adrian is nowhere to be found. They begin walking, yelling his name down every street. Kai hears Abass’ cry, and Adrian is lying before him limp on the ground. He comes to, and they arrive home safely, however, all Adrian seems to be concerned with is Agnes. He shows very little concern with the fact that he was just attacked, he feels the strong urge to return to the city no matter what the cost to continue working with her because “she is ill, and it’s his job” (219).
This chapter starts with Elias being released from Jail. Elias tried his best to transition back into his daily routine after his two restless nights in jail. He returned to work only to go back to his office and find his typewriter missing. He then found it in the Dean’s office. The Dean seems to know something and is withholding information from Elias Cole. As Elias leaves the Dean’s office the Dean seems to send out a passive aggressive threat to Elias. The text says, “[h]e was standing reading a document. He looked up fleetingly. ‘Be careful of the company you keep, Cole’” (223). The Dean is alluding to something, but is not telling Elias what he knows. Elias is out of custody, but Julius continues to be held in custody. Saffia is worried about Julius’ well being. Elias and Saffia talk about how to get Julius out over coffee. She explained her concerns and didn’t want Elias to upset Johnson anymore, for fear that Julius could be put into further danger.
In chapter 27 opens with Adrian and Ileana talking. Ileana tells a story about a patient that was under her supervision at the hospital. The next day when Ileana went in to work the patient was gone. She later found out that patient was moved to higher security, because she was being held for political reasons. “I’d been set up. She was a political detainee. From us she was transferred to a high-security psychiatric hospital, where she was diagnosed paranoiac” (229). The continue to another bar. Where Adrian becomes intrigued by a band member that is playing at the bar. After the show he meets her. Her name is Mamakay. He continues to think about her and sees her the next couple days.
Chapter 28 starts with Kai descriptively about his love-making with Nenebah. Kai and Nenebah’s love is a very sexualized love that is physically motivated.
Chapter 29 opens with Elias talking about dreaming of Julius. Elias and Saffia arrived at where Julius was being held and were hoping to pick him up and leave with him. “We waited on the third floor where the desk clerk refused to accept the valise, which served to graft another layer upon our thin hopes. So we sat, staring at the grey scuffed walls” (246). We later find out by the end of the chapter that Julius has died. Apparently of an asthma attack. His medication had been taken away from, which induced an asthma attack. “Julius died of an asthma attack. This is the sum of what we were told. By the time he was discovered it was too late; nothing could be done to save him” (249).
This chapter opens up about Adrian and Mamakay being together and getting to know each other. He talks about everything he knows about her and enjoys spending everyday with her. “She walks swiftly, picking her way along the uneven pavement. He will see her the next morning, maybe, when he delivers water. This small hope is enough to carry him through the afternoon” (254).
We come to find out in chapter 31 the Kai and Nenebah two years later have split up. He claims that she is envious of him and he thought she had quit and not given herself enough of a chance. “Nenebah left soon after. Life on the campus became untenable for her, so she said. Kai thought she’d given in to easily” (261). Kai then goes to see Foday in his ward. Foday and Kai catch up, and Foday tells Kai about his new girlfriend. Her name is Zainab. He asks Kai for advice on whether he thinks it is a good idea for him to go meet Zainab’s family. Foday goes on to ask Kai to stand in and come meet Zainab’s family as his elder brother.
Chapter 32 begins in Elias Cole’s room. Doctors are discussing Cole’s need for an oxygen concentrator, but Adrian has noted that he’s asked Mrs. Mara for one three times with no luck. Elias is getting worse, his body is thinner and “his face worn almost to the bone” (265). The scene changes and Cole continues telling Adrian about his past. At this point, Saffia is almost eligible for remarriage after Julius died. Elias talks about watching Saffia kick into survival mode, while he similarly thrusts his energy into his research paper for the Native Affairs Department. At the end of the chapter, Elias proposes to Saffia, and she accepts. To him, it seemed as if his tirely pursuit and manipulation was beginning to pay off.
In the next chapter, Adrian is on his way to the mental hospital and winds up in front of the pink house. Later, at work, Ileana and Adrian talk about Mamakay. Illeana warns Adrian to be careful with how close he gets to her. One of Adrian’s patients, Abdulai, is released from the hospital. Later on, Adrian meets up with Mamakay, noting the physical details of her appearance. Clearly, she is beginning to consume Adrian’s thoughts. Several hours later, Adrian and Mamakay are spending time together in her apartment, drinking wine. The night continues on, and Adrian sleeps with her overnight. The end of the chapter ends with a bit of a surprise; Mamakay is Elias Cole’s daughter.
Chapter 34 goes back to Abass and Kai. Tejani and Kai talk on the phone for a while about Kai’s future plans and what’s happening in America. After that, Kai helps Abass with his science homework. Kai notices the way that Abass craves love, and how he has stepped in to fill that role for his mom. There is a flashback, next, to Kai and Nenebah making love. The chapter ends with Tejani announcement of his departure.
In the next chapter, the reader is taken back to Elias and Saffia. Elias mentions that the way he is dying is very similar to Julius’, and that bothers him. Elias continues to be obsessed with Saffia, but that love is not reciprocated. She’s withdrawn, and cares for him more as a friend than as a husband. Cole is jealous of Julius, even after his death, and jealous of Saffia for keeping her secrets inside her mind. Next, Elias notices that Saffia has been continually leaving the house to go somewhere. He follows her one time and realizes she is going to the house where she used to live with Julius. At the end of the chapter, Elias narrates that in 1972, their daughter was born. He loved her passionately. The story zooms back to Elias and Adrian, and Adrian realizes that this little girl was Mamakay.
In Chapter 36, Adrian and Mamakay are at a bar called Pedro’s. Adrian has an unpleasant encounter with at the bar. Adrian is falling more in love with Mamakay by the minute. He says, “he wants to share her world” (297). Later on that evening, Adrian asks if Mamakay has ever seriously loved someone else before. She wanders around the question, but then finally answers that she had, just once. Adrian asks if she would have married him. She responses yes, without hesitation. Adrian is hurt, despite the fact that he is a married man, and Mamakay says nothing more at all.
Chapter 37 begins with Kia returning to the city where they had first seen Agnes. He runs into a colleague, so introduces him to his wife. A while later Kia is at a house and being told story after story about Agnes life. Forna then gives the reader a glimpse of what Kia has learned. She vividly describes the scene that is the root of Agnes trauma. She was at the market, with her friend Binta a few feet away, when a man came speaking through a megaphone telling everyone to sit down. It was then that Agnes has to watch her husband brutally murdered in front of the whole market, and he wasn’t the last. It was the day after his death that Agnes disappeared for the first time, and all the issues began. She survives through Red Cross tents that are set up to help, and eventually Naasu is able to send her a message through one of them. They are reunited, and Naasu informs her mother that she is pregnant, and invited her over to meet her husband. This is how Agnes learns that the father of her grandchild, the husband of her daughter, her son-in-law, is the man who killed her husband. Chapter 38 is awkward, yet intriguing, it is a paragraph long, and only consist of a scene where Adrian walks up to Elias Cole’s door, see’s a sign asking for no visitors, and walks away hesitantly.
Next, the reader reads of a quick scene of Adrian working with, or consulting, another patient, talking him through his dream. He then goes and speak to Attila about the diagnosis he is hoping to give, and believing is correct. Attila listens, responds, and then asks Adrian if he’d be willing to take a drive with him. Adrian agrees. Little did he know, he was agreeing to a wake up call. Attila bluntly calls Adrian out for coming into this country simply thinking he had the ability to fix everything, and that he was going to be the one to come and save the day. As this is not the case. Adrian does not understand this country or it’s culture, and that is what Attila, and Forna are getting at through this conversation. He says to him after Adrian expresses he is trying to help things return to normal, “Whose, normality? Yours? Mine? So they can put on a suit and sit in an air-conditioned office? You think that will ever happen?” (Forna, 319) Chapter 39 ends with Adrian getting a little bit of a continued glimpse into Mamakay’s history. Chapter 40 begins with Kia having a nightmare, a dream of someone chasing him, while he is in the break room. Kia then contemplates the current issues in his life. Whether or not he wants to leave and go work with his brother, and his recent experience and increased knowledge regarding Agnes. Neither of which has he mentioned to Kia yet. He imagines the conversation with Adrian, and thinks back to what he has told him about Agnes. He realizes that currently Adrian thinks Agnes is running to something, however, he believes she is fleeing from something.
Chapter 41 shifts back to Elias Cole, as he is in dire need of an oxygen machines, yet none are available. He knows he is about to die. The reader then drifts back into a flashback of Elias’. He is reminiscing on the time he was promoted to Dean at the university, and his marriage with Saffia. He then describes a scene of a car crash, Saffia was on her way to deliver flowers, and as she was making way for another vehicle, lost control and rolled 30 feet down a hill. Elias then begins to ramble and make little sense, however by the end of the chapter it is spelled out for the reader. Elias was having an affair, and had been since year four of their marriage. He was at his mistress house at the time of the accident, and it is there that Babagaleh delivered the news to him. He was at Vanessa’s house. Vanessa was his mistress.
Chapter forty-two begins by showing the relationship between Mamakay and Adrian and further progresses by giving us insight into the relationship between Mamakay and Elias Cole. Adrian has decided to speak to her about seeing her father. Adrian and Mamakay are at the Ocean Club where she plays her clarinet. Adrian realizes he is in love with Mamakay and understands the complicated relationship he has started. Adrian then encourages Mamakay to see her father. For the first time Mamakay gives us an outsider’s view towards Elias’s past and motives in saying “you don’t understand about my father” (333). In this way she addresses not only the ignorance Adrian has from Cole’s bias, but also the reader’s because we have been forced to understand only Cole’s recollection of the past. As an example she explains the distant relationship between Saffia and Cole using Kekura’s visit. She says “around my father…[Saffia] was…much more reserved” (334). There is also a small hint of Adrian’s ignorance towards who Mamakay really is when she asks for a cigarette and he admits to himself that he didn’t know she smokes. Mamakay continues to reveal “the point is…she told me not to tell my father…she didn’t trust him” (335). Mamakay explains that Elias is sneaky and often untrustworthy, so that Adrian must question all the information he has received from Cole. Mamakay also shares another significant story. She explains that the university students, including herself, signed a petition to force the Vice Chancellor’s resignation. Cole used information from Mamakay to betray and arrest her friends. She exposes a more ruthless, ambitious, and power-hungry side of Cole that he seldom presents.
Chapter 43 follows Kai and his experiences at the operating theatre. We see the common theme of cultural ignorance as a Swedish doctor incorrectly associates an injury with a suicide attempt. Kai says “survival was simply too hard-won to be given up lightly. Perhaps the Swedish doctor imagines himself trying to end it all if he lived here” (341). Kai also imagines his future with Tejani and compares his current situation to a more Western hospital. Kai seems reluctant to voice his plans to Mrs. Mara even though it is essential to his departure. On his way to Adrian’s apartment Kai addresses the incredible differences between the United States and Sierra Leone and how Westerners can be ignorant to the issues of other countries. Finally, Forna reveals that Mamakay is really Nenebah at the same time Kai recognizes her affair with Adrian. This happens when Kai sees Nenebah and Adrian leaving Adrian’s apartment together.
Chapter 44 bounces back to Adrian at the mental ward. Adrian attends the morning meeting and prepares for group therapy. Adrian reflects on the confrontation between Adrian, Mamakay/Nenebah and Kai. Again we see him recognizing how little he knows about Mamakay when he says “he’d thought he knew so much about her. It turned out he didn’t even know her name” (345). In this way Mamakay represents Sierra Leone and Arian represents outsiders’ lack of understanding. Adrian briefly returns to the present group therapy and then again to Mamakay and Kai. Adrian diagnoses Elias Cole as a purist pathological liar. He visits Cole and sees that he has received the oxygen concentrator. Adrian decides to confront Cole with his decisions. He revealed his discussions to Mamakay who confirmed that Cole had a tendency to betray friends. She explains that history is being written by the wrong people as the survivors are not the noble ones. Mamakay states that it is the ones that kept quiet that made it. Adrian realizes that it was those that were silent and survived did so by lying: lying by omission. At the end of this chapter Mamakay nonchalantly reveals another secret: she is pregnant with Adrian’s child
Chapter 45 begins with Foday’s surgery. Kai has told Mrs. Mara of his plans, but not Seligmann. Later, Kai returns to his old home. He takes inventory of the dismal place. Kai pains at the memory of Nenebah with Adrian. He goes to his cousin’s house to discover that Abass is in big trouble. Abass swore at his mother without understanding the meaning. He had locked himself in his room. Abass is upset by Kai’s plans to leave for America. Kai realizes the boy’s innocence that he does not understand loss or death.
Chapter 46 shows a meeting between Adrian and Ileana. He confides in her about Mamakay’s pregnancy. He reviews Agnes’s file and goes to visit Cole. Cole has had a bad night so he leaves. Adrian spots Kai, but he avoids him. Later he calls Lisa. He realizes the large cultural differences, and he does not miss his home. After, he calls his mother and encourages her to visit. Finally Adrian contemplates the meaning of love from a scientific view and realizes his strong feelings for Mamakay.
To begin the chapter, we find Kai in the United States Embassy pursuing the first steps to get a green card to move to the United States. Afterwards, he decides to visit his friend Mary again, and later he recounts dragging dead corpses out of the streets during the end of the war. The chapter closes with Foday discussing the Terra Cotta warriors with Kai and asking if he needs to return the radio, Kai denies as he took it from Adrian’s apartment, and has no interest in returning it.
Next, we return to Adrian as he tries to cure a child soldier of his trauma and to break him of his emotional triggers. We then find him listening to Elias confess about how he handed over the evidence which eventually led to Julius’ death, and he now feels he is suffering for his choice. Finally, we end with an intimate scene between Nenebah and Adrian, in which she rejects his offer to return home with him as she wishes to raise their child in Sierra Leone.
We again return to Kai and learn that while he is at the Library he runs into Nenebah and plans to talk to her, until he notices she is reading pregnancy books and is holding her belly. At this he is sick and returns to the hospital, where he finds Foday’s foot has become infected and needs emergency surgery to save his life.
Adrian returns home to his mother and finds solace in being there. He stays for a few days and helps her build a new deck and a few other household chores as they discuss his time in Africa, his father’s struggles with a disease, and the future about what he is going to do.
We end with Kai sitting in a doctor’s office reading through letters from Tejani while waiting his turn to receive his medical to complete the green card application process. He received his medical, and the chapter closes while he waits at the Embassy for his case worker.
Chapter 52 begins with a narration of Adrian’s thoughts. He is back in Sierra Leone with Mamakay now; he adores her. Adrian has grown in his interest to draw different pictures. He not only draws pictures of Mamakay, but he finds great delight in drawing pictures of bats so the two of them go on an adventure to a cave and see a bunch of bats. Shortly after, Forna brings us to the day where Adrian meets with Elias once again. Elias was well aware of Adrian’s relationship with Mamakay and made that known immediately. After the awkward interaction with that, Elias went into great detail of his day being held captive under Johnson, presuming it as if he truly is innocent.
After Elias’ meeting with Adrian, Adrian left to go home and saw Mamakay on the couch in serious pain. They rushed to the hospital where Seligmann and Kai operated on her, but it was too late, she died. Kai and Adrian got together shortly after and wrestled with some internal emotions with one another; Kai was furious at Adrian and questioned why he ever came to Sierra Leone. It was a bad remedy.
Adrian proves his point of why he came to Sierra Leone, which was to help people, and he tries to help Kai and his nightmares. Adrian performs some psychology on him and talks about the bridge and why Kai is afraid of it, which is where Kai goes into a flashback. The story begins back when Africa was in major conflict and war was everywhere. Kai and a fellow nurse, Balia, were running around the hospital helping whoever looked like they had the potential to actually live. While helping others, Kai and Balia were taken captive and forced into doing some awful things. They ended up leaving this facility and were taken onto the bridge where they were going to get shot and killed. Kai grabs Balia and they both fall off the bridge into the water. Balia is shot and Kai is alive.
Transitioning from the epic flashback on Kai’s life, chapter 56 skips ahead two years in time. Two years later, Elias Cole is dead, Adrian is back home in Britain with Lisa, Kai has stayed in Sierra Leone where he has overcome his fears, and Tejani is coming back home. In the end, all this ever was is a memory of love.
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