Published by Skyhorse Publishing
Published: January 19th, 2021
Number of Pages: 288
The seemingly never-ending Cabinda War (1975—) has left multitudes dead in its wake and thousands of children homeless and orphaned.
Jackaleena N’denga, a young Angolan girl, has become the sole survivor of one specifically brutal village massacre carried out by a band of guerrilla boy-soldiers.
Jackaleena’s resilience leads her to an orphanage on the west coast of Africa, known as Benguela by the Sea, where she and other children are taken in and protected. Her brilliant mind and endless questions capture the heart of her mentor, Margaret, who ensures her that her survival thus far—especially being the survivor from her village—must mean she has big things ahead of her. When the opportunity arises, she must find her purpose.
Not without a plan, Jackaleena stows away on a mercy ship that has made its yearly visit to the orphanage and is now preparing to return to America. Her journey takes her across the ocean, into the arms of New York City’s customs officials, and finally into placement in a temporary foster home in Texas.
Enter Alfie Carter—a workaholic, small-town detective who is also battling memories of his past. His life is forever changed when he meets a young African girl looking for her higher purpose.
Clueless Gent’s Rating for Alfie Carter
Alfie Carter is a wonderful story that tugs at the heart strings, and will quickly place the reader in an empathetic mood. There were many aspects to this book that I very much enjoyed, yet there were a few things that I did not enjoy as much. I’ll cover both in this review.
The book is essentially two separate storylines that intersect at some point. One story follows the path of a preteen African girl, from the time her small village is attacked until she ultimately ends up in Texas. The other story offers a glimpse into the life of Alfie Carter, a detective in a small Texas town.
The story about the African girl has one scene of intense violence in the beginning. I thought the author did a wonderful job of painting a realistic picture of the scene, yet declining to include gratuitous violence. That is not to say the author wasn’t descriptive. In another scene, the African girl is eating a grasshopper. The author did not elaborate on it, but matter-of-factly described the taste and texture the girl experienced.
Alfie’s story has a good amount of backstory, from both his childhood and from a period about twenty years earlier in his marriage. The predominance of his story, however, focuses on his current case, the death of a local high school girl.
The characters in both stories are well developed. The African girl and Alfie Carter are the most developed characters – as they should be as the protagonists. As you can probably imagine, the dialect surrounding these two characters is drastically different. I think the author does a fine job of “keeping it real” – that is to say, the different dialects remain different throughout the story.
“Alfie, you know we are only made of clay. When we die and they plant us in the ground, we just turn back to dust.”
The two stories are told in different points of view. The African story is told in third person POV, while Alfie’s story is told in first person POV. As I got further in the stories, I became more comfortable with the POV choices. However, there was one paragraph, near the point where the stories intersect, where the POV changes within the same paragraph. I read an advanced reader copy (ARC), but I’m not entirely sure this was a typo kind of thing.
That brings me to the things that I did not particularly like about the book.
First, when the author first changes from one storyline to the other, it took me a while to figure out that’s what he did. I was confused for a number of paragraphs. However, after I figured it out, I had no problems switching after that.
The author uses a court case as a vehicle to bring in the African story. The author provided enough details about the court case that it was always in the back of my mind, waiting for it to came back into the story. It never did. As far as I know, the court is still in recess.
Over the years, I have heard various reports of the local fighting in Africa. I don’t know how realistic the scenes in this story are compared to what actually happens. However, the way the author tells the story, it certainly seems realistic to me.
There is a fair amount of Christianity in the book – particularly in the African storyline. However, I thought it was handled very nicely by the author, and it all seemed appropriate.
Overall, I enjoyed the book and the author’s writing style. Given the opportunity, I would gladly read another of the author’s books to see what else he has to say.
BJ Mayo was born in an oil field town in Texas. He spent the first few years of his life living in a company field camp twenty-five miles from the closest town. His career in the energy industry took him to various points in Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Louisiana, Bangladesh, Australia, and Angola West Africa. He and his wife were high school sweethearts and have been married for forty-six years with two grown children. They live on a working farm near San Angelo, Texas.
Visit BJ Mayo at his website: https://bjmayo.com/.