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A Guide to the Birds of East Africa: A Novel

May 12, 2011

   Set in Nairobi and other parts of Kenya, this short, charming novel reminded me of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, by Helen Simonson, even though the settings are different. I think they are similar because both feature widowed parents of grown children, friendship, and some late in life romance. Mr. Malik and Rose Mbikwa meet weekly on bird walks, which Rose leads. We learn about Mr. Malik’s surprising weekly activities, including the amusing bets made at the Asadi Club. Harry Khan, who attended the same English boarding school as Mr. Malik, visits Nairobi for a month, and starts dating Rose, much to Mr. Malik’s indignation. Of course, Mr. Malik has never told Rose about his feelings. Both gentlemen are interested in asking Rose to a dance, and Mr. Malik’s friends suggest a competition. Previous knowledge about Kenya or birds isn’t needed to enjoy this gem of a book.

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