“We laugh and we cry.”
In Tamar Myers’ The Girl Who Married an Eagle, there is a lot of both.
Julia Elaine Newton has come all the way from Ohio to the Belgian Congo to save souls and teach English to young girls who are runaway child brides. She’s really quite pleased with herself and thinks she knows what she’s doing. It’s 1959, and her spotless cotton circle skirt is just the thing to wear in Africa, comfortable and fresh, or it is until it becomes blood-soaked while she tends a future student who has been attacked by hyenas. Exquisite, brilliant, ten-year-old Buakane has run away on her marriage night from Chief Eagle, a man nearly four times her age. She is his 23rd wife.
Engaging and thought-provoking as it is, the book’s premise might seem rather far-fetched. Who would choose to set her book in such a time and place? The research required to get the details—cultural, personal, and factual—correct would be overwhelming for most writers. But not for Tamar Myers. As a child, she lived those details. Her parents ran a school for runaway child brides much as the one depicted in the book. She would have known people like her characters, and, disturbingly, she lived with same dangers her heroines face.
Although The Girl Who Married an Eagle is subtitled a mystery, I am hard-pressed to find one unless it is the mystery of humankind’s cruelty and its perseverance in the face of it. However, this author is known for writing mysteries, including her series that begins with The Witch Doctor’s Wife which takes place a little before the events in The Girl Who Married an Eagle and has some of the same well-thought-out characters, none of whom are strangers to laughing and crying.