Milele Safari
by Jan Hawke


In Swahili a safari literally means a long journey and so this story is one of journeys of various types. The principal path is Sophie Taylor's and starts when her fiancé Tom Harrison and his friend and co-worker Dr. Teresa Olatunde, are murdered in a refugee camp for people fleeing tribal genocide in fictional Zyanda. Back in Zambia, suffering from malaria and newly pregnant Sophie, on hearing the awful news, collapses and falls into a coma, losing her baby. When she regains consciousness she enters a spiralling breakdown because of the unbearable losses and, needing someone to blame for her lover's death, mistakenly assigns this to Teresa, of whom she has always felt jealous because of her close sibling-style relationship with Tom.
Repatriated to England, Sophie slowly regains her health and a better perspective of what happened and why, in part thanks to Youssef Jettou, a former field surgeon working with the same aid agency as her, who had saved Teresa's life when she was found close to death as a war orphan in the late 1960's in Biafra. His colleagues Henryk Zimmerman (who first found Teresa, clutching her dead four year old brother) and his wife Helga, became Teresa's godparents and sponsored her education in South Africa and later medical training. The Zimmermans had also been in the refugee camp and witnessed the killings of another agency operative, Aaron Umbatu and, by one of his own men, the Zyandan priest who brutally hacked Teresa to death with a machete. The Zimmermans and Youssef's account of Teresa's path to such a macabre fate eventually help Sophie deal with her experience of sub-Saharan Africa's harsher realities of ignorance, disease, poverty, drought, famine, war and injustice. Recovering her own health leads her down a new path as she also trains as a GP and psychotherapist, specialising in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder cases, eventually deciding to return to work in Africa at the newly opened Teresa Olatunde Community Hospital in Zyanda, working amongst refugee and traditional communities in a new generation UN-sponsored socio-economic project.
Before she takes up her new post, her sister Claire, a former resident of Zimbabwe, but now running an upmarket tour agency out of Kenya, comes up with a strangely apt way of easing her little sister back into working life in Africa. Sophie therefore takes up the temporary position of tour escort and medical consultant for a party of Hollywood movie folk who are on a pre-filming jolly, before starting production of a blockbuster remake of The African Queen. As they travel through Zambia, Zimbabwe and Uganda, Sophie finds herself falling in love with 'her' old Africa again; the animals, evocative landscapes and simple everyday lives, finding fuller acceptance of her own tragic experiences on Lake Kariba in Zimbabwe as she meets professional game hunter-guide Harry Burton and his 'sort-of-nephew' veterinarian Luey Ogilvy. Both men have had struggles with their own ambivalent experience of modern Africa and its politics, as the tour group of Brits and Americans bring out the more naive western cultural perceptions on colonial history, conservation and economic tourism.
When he finds himself completely enamoured of Sophie, Luey changes his plans to leave for Europe and instead follows Sophie to the Mgakera River Enclave, in the border country of Zyanda and Tanzania where they meet Zyandans Verity Beleshona and David Mukuga, both of whom had witnessed Tom's and Teresa's deaths in Umbeke. Both Zyandans need help in confronting their terrible memories and dealing with bereavement as a result of the genocide, despite being on different sides. Together the four people forge tight bonds of friendship and move forward to guide Mgakera into a saner, fulfilling future, where mistakes and history are learned from, and where community values and needs come first.

As the main storyline weaves its way through the various characters' reminiscences, apocryphal tales, anecdotes and quirky folklore, an Africa emerges that underscores the mysteries, romance and anathema of a continent that can never seem to shake its sometimes dark and ugly past and precariously balanced future in the modern world.


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5 Star Reviews (from

by Paul Walsh (Eire)

Not my typical sort of book to be honest but I'm glad I read outside my comfort zone. Story is beautifully crafted and drew me right in. The main characters are well drawn and in many ways you can feel what they are feeling giving a sense of authenticity to the story. For a story with such a dark central fulcrum it is actually quite uplifting I also felt like I was learning something about the character of Africa as I was reading. Some very interesting and informative footnotes throughout really help as well.
All in all a well written book and hopefully the first of many.

by Ted Farrar (UK)

Sophie Taylor has returned to Africa after a long absence, and is forced to confront the tragedies of her past – the murder of her fiancé and loss of her unborn daughter. Milele Safari records this spiritual journey of acceptance, healing and romance against the stunning, often savage and always unpredictable backdrop of Africa.
It is hard to believe this is Jan Hawke’s first novel – she is such an accomplished writer that you can almost taste the dust of Africa in your throat, picture the characters as if you’re sitting beside them around the campfire. The story takes you back and forth from past to present and back again, unflinchingly exploring the essence of Africa through Sophie’s experiences. Ultimately it’s a romance, but this is no Mills & Boon.
I'm generally very hard to please when it comes to reviews. First of all I look for writing talent, then style, and this all has to be carried by an engrossing and original storyline. In fact I've never awarded more than three stars before. But Ms Hawke deserves no less than five stars because not only is Milele Safari an engaging and often funny story told with effortless skill - she also seemingly accomplishes the impossible by revealing the soul of Africa, warts and all.
Note to Author: I bow to you, oh Great One!

by Mary Patterson Thornburg (USA)

Dr. Sophie Taylor, a British physician and psychotherapist, has taken a job at a UN-sponsored refugee community in central Africa. Before reporting for work, as a favor to her sister she accompanies a group of filmmakers on a guided safari. During this period she meets an attractive wildlife veterinarian who finds her equally attractive. The couple begins a serious love affair, the veterinarian applies for and gets employment with Sophie's employer, and before long the two become involved in an emergency rescue effort following an earthquake, complicated by a search for a group of elephant poachers.
This, in essence, is the plot of the story presented in "Milele Safari." Yet the story is much deeper and very much darker than such a plot summary suggests.
For this is not Sophie's first trip to Africa, nor her first love affair. And – like the areas she visits now, and like the characters she meets – she is haunted by the tragic events of her earlier experience, which coincided with a widespread genocide.
"Milele Safari" is not in any sense an easy read. It moves steadily from present to past to present again, from the journals and memories of one character to those of another and another. It circles, always, around inexplicable hatreds and unremitting guilt. It does not shrink at shocking truths. At the same time, it never gives way to despair. If you are looking for a conventional thriller, or for a simplistic inspirational "message," you won't find either here.
What you WILL find is a hard look at the complexities of the human spirit, told in terms of modern Africa but pertinent to what has happened and is happening everywhere else in the world. And you'll find characters, situations, and places that will stay with you for a long time.

by Kelly (USA)

This is not an easy quick beach read - far from it. However, it is an excellent read. If you have even the slightest interest or curiosity about the complexity of Africa – this is your journey to understanding.
Before writing my review, I read the others - both here on the Kindle edition that I have and on the hard copy - for some reason Amazon has them separated even though they are the same book. The other reviews do a very good job, better than I could, of explaining the detail of the plot and substance of the story. I'll go in a different direction.
This is one of the tightest written books I have read in a very long time. The prose is excellent, the character development equally excellent. One of my pet peeves is when characters are built in one direction then act completely out of character - that never happened, not once, not even with Lyssa the leopard who we get the opportunity to see the world to include tourists from her unique perspective.
I mention Lyssa the leopard because not only does the author give us a rather believable view from the leopards perspective, in doing so she gives us one more angel on the rather amazing story world she develops throughout the book. As with the character development the story world is spot on. You will feel you are there.
This is a book of hope in an often hopeless land. The stories of monstrosities are told with the same excellence and genuineness that supports the characters and story world. I didn't find a single misstep. That is quite an accomplishment for a first time author with such a massive undertaking - this is not a small book or a lightweight topic.
An Eternal Journey is obviously a heart-felt undertaking by the author about a topic that has touched her deeply. If she writes on other topics equally as well, she will become a force in the literary world. I for one hope she continues to exercise her insightful understanding through her keen writing skills.

by Clare Curran (UK)

This book isn't my usual sort of read, and given the horror behind the subject matter, I wasn't sure what to expect.
I have to say, that it is well written and incredibly well researched. The book doesn't shy away from the horror of genocide, but neither does it revel in the gory details of what humans can be capable of at their worst.
Through a series of journal-like entries from several different perspectives, we follow a set of characters through different stages of their lives, and see how one horrible event can change their lives forever.
The characters were well developed and well rounded, and as a reader you were able to empathise with both the victims of and the perpetrators of the situation in Hawke's fictional Zyanda.
I highly recommend this book, it was touching and incredibly well written.

by Ronesa (USA)

If you are looking for a book filled with fast-paced action and adventure on an African safari, this is not the book for you. Although it has all of those things, and beautifully written descriptions of the land and wildlife of Africa, the book is more more thought-provoking. It is a story about the tragedies individuals and nations have suffered. It is a story of genocide, personal loss, despair, grief, acceptance, and forgiveness. You learn about the killing of a nun and Brit from the perspective of all parties involved and how this tragic event affected each of them and those they came in contact with. Don't expect to read this book quickly; it is one you need to contemplate as you go.

by Nancy Bell (USA)

While not an easy read, this is well worth the emotional gamut the reader experiences. Gritty and sometimes brutal in its reality, it is also a story of hope and survival.


by Jen Jensen

This was an powerful book, very lyrical and intense, which affected me long after I finished it. Themes of courage, forgiveness, loss, love and healing play out through the story.
Everything revolves around a horrifying killing in the past, during a genocidal war (fictional, but based partly on Rwanda). The author skillfully takes us from the Englishwoman whose fiancé was killed that day, to the European and African missionaries running the medical clinic, to a teenager tangled up in the killings. We get caught up in their lives back then and as well as now, making us empathize with each through their individual experiences.
It’s not all horror, though – the author obviously has a great love for Africa. The descriptions and every day experiences made me feel like I was there with the wildlife, the dust, the rain. I’m keeping it to re-read next year.
Oh, and I love "TIA" - "This is Africa," the explanation of why things work or don't work as Europeans expect!


Liz Gavin (Brazil)

I started reading this book over a month ago and got so frustrated I had to stop due to professional and personal urgent matters. But the story never left me and this is one of the qualities of a good book, in my opinion.
Yesterday, when I sat down to finish my read it was just as though I had never stopped reading Milele. The characters are so strong and well written, the story is so captivating and strong I hadn’t forgotten any details. Kudos, Jan Hawke!!
As I’m not one to write spoilers, I won’t give away many details but I will say this: fans of complex and realistic characters and layered and deeply moving stories will love this book. But you need to have a strong heart to stomach some bits of the narrative as this isn’t an easy-breezy book. It’s one that will stick with you and maybe haunt you for a while. Don’t you love it when that happens? I do!


by Karen Ingalls (USA)

What an amazing book with so much historical, social, and geographical information. The characters were strong, well described, and ones I could "see". I learned about the topography, animals, and botany of that area of Africa. Descriptions of the atrocities captured my emotions, the descriptions were sometimes hard to read, but I accepted this is a fact of history. I highly recommend this book


by Michael Lynes (USA)

"Milele Safari" by Jan Hawke is wonderful - full stop.
The writing is top notch, with beautiful imagery, scene setting and detailed character description. The dialog is also intricate with distinct points-of-view, unique voices and well defined identifiable personas. Ms Hawke is obviously an accomplished writer and her polished prose shines. My only, (small), critique would be that in some parts of the story the density of the dialog distracts, but as this is basically a story of relationships the dialog is both necessary and a core element.
Milele is an enigmatic story, in the sense that it is not a singular narrative but rather a collection of different stories, woven together in a sort of Chaucerian montage, with various tales telling the same series of events from a different characters' perspective. The characters are interesting as well, from protagonist to antagonist to predator to prey, with Africa itself becoming both the all encompassing world as well as a subtle character and active participant in the progression of the plot.
Our story opens and we are introduced to our heroine, Sophie Taylor, a doctor who is traveling as part of a safari-tourist group to both provide her expert services and to help heal herself through revisiting and confronting ghosts of her past life.
The environs of Africa, Victoria Falls, bring her back to events both euphoric and tragic. Tom, her first love, and the recurring dreams of him and their child become powerful forces that echo and shape her present reality. As Africa re-envelops her and as her journey unfolds we too become enraptured and begin to understand her hurt and how it is reflected and refracted by the prism of her past. No spoilers but this is an engrossing and substantial feast of a tale and there is really something for everyone within it. It is romantic but not romance, adventurous while maintaining intimacy and tragic without being a tragedy. It portrays the range of human frailty and weakness as well as great human strength and resilience.
At the risk of repeating myself, it is just a wonderful work of fiction and I highly recommend it


by Rebecca Reilly (USA)

Fabulous Read! I was hesitant to begin because I knew Milele Safari dealt with tough issues and dark times, and I wasn't in the mood for that. I'm so glad I did! Once I started, I could not put the book down. Jan Hawke writes with skill and heart. Milele Safari stirs emotions--grief, humor, hope, and joy. I was so moved by this book, I found myself discussing it with strangers!


by Maggie Garside

In her Foreword, Jan Hawke seems to have misgivings about her ability to write an accurate and exciting novel about what has happened in modern-day Africa. She changes the names of countries and even tribes - I wonder why? She has totally captivated those bad times during Rwanda's Holocaust in 1994. Her characters are believable and the story line could quite easily have happened. I sometimes found the dialogue between the characters a little lengthy but that's a minor criticism. So why does she doubt herself? Maybe because this is her first novel? Jan, rest assured you are an excellent writer and I look forward to your next novel.
I really enjoyed Milele Safari - yes, it chops and changes and goes backwards and forwards but if you can't cope with that, then this isn\'t the book for you. Believe me, T. I. A. This is Africa.


by Joy Shelton-York

Milele Safari: An Eternal Journey, is a beautifully written story told by an author that obviously has a great passion, respect, and understanding of Africa and its people. I could picture every detail of the magnificent scenery, feel the intense heat and humidity, visualized and understand the excitement of watching the exotic wildlife in their natural habitats , and taste the mouthwatering local delicacies. Although the story captures the often harsh conditions, atrocities of war, genocide, and
inhumanity, it also portrays a spirit of compassion, community, family loyalty, pride, and caring for others.
The story is written in the point of view of several well-developed and realistic characters. It is often told through diaries. Dr. Sophie Taylor is the main character who is returning to Africa many years after a tragedy there that almost destroyed her life when her fiancé was killed and she lost her baby. This is a second chance for her to come to terms with her loss and move forward with her desire to help others in a region desperate for medical and psychological healing.
The story centers around the one tragic event that affected many lives. Working its way between the past and the present, this compelling story takes us on a marvelous journey. I highly recommend this beautifully written book.


by John W. Howell

I had read a lot about this book before I bought a copy. The promo's and chatter convinced me to purchase the book even though in the past I have been disappointed following the advice of others. I could not have been more pleased to find out all the positive things said about the story and writing proved to be true. The story itself grabbed me and would not let go. The writing of the story kept me involved throughout this marvelous book.
There is so much to grasp in Ms. Hawke's exceptional telling of both the more general and shockingly brutal elements of Miele Safari. One can usually expect an author to handle one or two similar components of a narration well. Ms. Hawke seems to be a writing master in the way she is comfortable detailing a high number of diverse emotions. She is not one dimensional when writing of murder and mayhem and has the wisdom of providing a moral balance and sense of justice in the unpleasant aspects of the story. In the same vein, she provides the reader with in my opinion an open and refreshing look at love that is not hampered by the usual trite man and women circumstances that lately seems to haunt any two fictional characters who want happiness.
The descriptions of Africa and its people reflect the extensive research that the reader senses went into this novel. The research is not of the travelog variety but is felt in each word and not overtly pushed to a point of tediousness. The reader knows that an event described is an event that probably took place even if the names have been changed.
I bought this book with the idea of enjoying a well written and compelling story. I was not disappointed and would recommend Milele Safari to anyone who wants to immerse themselves in a high-quality piece of fiction.


by BGrif

This is an engaging story. I find it interesting to be immersed in the best and worst of other cultures, even if it's not easy reading about the atrocities. The narrative was a little confusing as it jumped around in time and point of view, but not so much so that it took away from either the story or the characters. This is a memorable read.


by Soooz Burke (Australia)

This book at first demanded my attention and then utterly commanded it .
Much has been said in previous reviews of this book that may lead a new reader into the false illusion that it is not an easy book to read.
It is the subject matter that is the gut wrenchingly difficult undertaking here. It is not this authors’ unique way of expressing and exposing the storyline, for author Jan Hawke in this her first sojourn into sharing her skill, has a richly compelling voice.
The author has a distinct style, a way of weaving and inter-weaving the enormously difficult task she undertook at the outset to make Milele Safari, if not less harrowing, then harrowing with a sense of real purpose and a clear direction.
Your comfort zone may well be breached. If you are looking for a read that gives breathtakingly stunning visual images, yes … you will find those inside these pages in rich abundance. By the same token the authors ability to craft the horrors of Genocide, to re-create the emotional impact of overwhelmingly brutal acts of man’s ultimate betrayal of his own species will not spare you. My emotions were flayed raw by its telling.
This author gives you no easy fix. Such is the fabric of her characterizations. Each one is significant. Each has a component necessary to the telling. The sharing of insights from differing perspectives and even those of differing species raises questions, we may be unwilling or unable to answer.
If you undertake this journey with a need to learn and explore, if it’s taken with a willingness to open your mind and your heart, you will not be disappointed.
I will be seeking out further writings from Jan Hawke. I believe she will become a force in writing to be acknowledged and widely read.


by Yvi MC (USA)

I don't know that I've ever read a book quite like this, and I probably would not have picked it up had it not been recommended to me. I saw the book trailer for it which intrigued me even more. As I have many young readers who read my reviews, I want to mention that this book is for a mature audience. What I mean by that is that the topics are heavy and traumatic at times. It is not a book that I could read quickly or with distractions.
The story follows several different characters, although all of them in some way tie into the main character, Sophie. Each character is so beautifully unique in his/her dreams, desires, and traumas. The author does such a brilliant job in sharing the various stories through the characters' perspectives. There are parts that even take on the viewpoint of a couple of the predators (animals).
I can't really pick any one character as most riveting. This was a heart-wrenching read for me at times because my heart broke for the amount of loss that took place. David's characters floored me. To see his story and to know that so many "Davids" exist saddens me. I have a newfound respect for UN workers and those who volunteer in war torn countries. They have an unending capacity for empathy and love. Wow.
With all of the heaviness, there is also light and beauty. The descriptions of Africa were stunning. I am a magnet for mosquitoes, so I'm not sure if I will ever go there, but after reading this book, I definitely would love to see it firsthand.
This book is beautifully written and has a story definitely worth reading. Just be prepared for a roller coaster ride of awe and wonder on the highs and heartache and sadness on the lows. But when the ride is over, you will know that it was worth it all. :-)


by D.L. Finn (USA)

I admit, I was nervous when I started reading “Milele Safari” knowing rape and genocide were part of the story. I was worried it would be difficult to read, and parts of it were. But, I found myself quickly taken in by the story and strong characters, especially Sophie. She was a compelling character that I was rooting for. Ms. Hawke brought history, events, and Africa into a fictional story, in a unique way. It was a clever approach to tell a story through many points of view (including a panther) to get a full picture of complicated events. I found myself learning, as well as being entertained. It is a book that requires a little more focus to read, but it is well worth it!

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