In 1983, southern Sudan was thrust into civil war and thousands of boys were displaced. Families and whole villages were destroyed, torn apart, lost forever.
This story is based on the true story of Jacob Deng who was a child of the Sudan. The author, Jan Coates, has masterfully woven fiction around the deeply moving, horrific story of a young child running for his life. Jacob was only seven years old when his village was raided and he barely escaped certain death. Having to leave his mother behind, along with everything he knew, he began walking for what turned into many months, and along the way he joined up with hundreds of others – all boys – on the same journey. After crossing a crocodile-infested river the survivors became refugees in another country, but even there they were not safe.
This is such a gripping, well-written story that at times I gasped, aloud said, “oh no!”, and winced at the suffering and struggles those young children endured. Hungry, afraid, and without their parents, they did what they knew to do – stay together, keep walking, keep ahead of the enemy, and somehow survive another day of exposure to the elements and wild animals. This is one of those books that was truly hard to put down – when eating and sleeping seemed a nuisance while reading a story in which both food and sleep were hard to come by for those children.
A Hare in the Elephant’s Trunk is not overly graphic to read, but at the same time it is real. Jan wrote a powerfully descriptive story that pulls the reader into the life and climate of Africa where daily existence is fraught with the challenge simply to survive. And this story is a story of survival and the strength of the human will along with an underlying faith to rise above one’s circumstances.
The amazing gem is that Jan Coates met Jacob Deng here in Nova Scotia, and after talking with him she felt compelled to write his story. The result, A Hare in the Elephant’s Trunk, has gained well deserved attention, now listed as a 2011 finalist for the Governor
General’s Literary Award.
In the back of the book there is an interview Jan had with Joseph Deng. There is even a glossary to which the reader can refer to understand the meaning of some African words, such as abaar, which means orphan, and wadeng – a Dinka word which means look always to tomorrow; it will be better.
This book is an excellent way to learn about the story of the Lost Boys of Sudan. Proceeds from the sale of A Hare in the Elephant’s Trunk are shared with Jacob’s charity Wadeng Wings of Hope, which is another good reason to add this novel to your personal library.
BONUS: As soon as we can complete it I will be posting my interview with Jan Coates. Stay tuned! After the interview you will have the opportunity to try to win a copy of her book.
Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!