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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Adventure writer Ann Jones sets out to cross Africa armed with a battered Land Rover, stacks of canned food, and a tantalizing legend about an ancient tribe ruled by a peaceful rainmaking queen. Through treacherous desert, vehicle-swallowing rainforest mud, and innumerable police checkpoints, Jones and her traveling companion press on in search of the Lovedu in this exciting and unforgettable travelogue.
Jones skillfully weaves Africa's complicated political climate into her travel narrative, contextualizing her experiences on the road. Colonialism, capitalism, and tourism are only a few of the forces that have shaped Africa, and she explores how each has affected the countries visited by her and Kevin Muggleton, the adventurous British photographer who serves as her traveling companion. On a political level as well as a physical one, Jones and Muggleton must struggle through impossible conditions as they set out to traverse the African continent from Morocco all the way down to South Africa. They drive through the immense, disorienting Sahara, endless fields of waist-high grass, and deep wallows of red rainforest mud. They cross a river by building a raft for the Land Rover and are forced to brave a ravine by driving over a bridge made of two logs. Their vehicle falls apart bit by bit -- a mirror here, a window there -- its gradual disintegration mirroring the growing resentment between the intrepid travelers. Eventually, Muggleton's macho antics -- which range from suicidal recklessness behind the wheel of the Land Rover to flagrant defiance of machine gun-toting police at checkpoints -- drives Jones to grab her sleeping bag and split to continue the quest for the Lovedu alone.
Only after the travelers part company does Looking for Lovedu take on a pace that truly suits Jones, for she is finally able to set her own course without Muggleton pressuring her to zoom past everything in order to keep a maniacal schedule. As she leisurely closes in on the fabled rainmaking queen, Jones writes some of the book's most graceful passages. Looking for Lovedu is an enthralling and courageous narrative, which in spite of its brevity manages to convey a wealth of important observations on African history, identity, and culture.