Hands Full of Ashes
Consumed with grief over the death of her husband, Olivia travels to Uganda to do some humanitarian work at an orphanage. Also, she hopes to spread her dead husband’s ashes in places to which they had never been able to travel. Olivia instantly falls in love with Africa, and grows attached to the children at her orphanage. The orphanage director, Jan, falls in love with her strength and resilience.
After some time there, Olivia’s friend, Danni, joins her in Africa. They travel to Rwanda to see groups of gorillas there. While they’re observing the gorillas, their tour group is attacked by a splinter cell. Danni and Olivia are separated. Olivia is rescued by a Rwandan man named Roger, and Danni is captured by the splinter cell. Olivia grows attracted to Roger, but Roger is haunted by the demons of his past as a witness to some of the atrocities during the Rwandan genocide.
When the plot in Hands Full of Ashes takes off, it takes off. The story progresses at a blistering pace. At one point, when Roger and Olivia meet with Jan near the end, the plot crumbled a bit into something of an unfortunate soap opera. There are so many merits to this book, though, that the pace, and some of the characters’ poor choices, are inconsequential. It is refreshing to see contemporary romance set in an atypical location with characters that care more about just themselves.
The shadow of Rwanda, Uganda, and the Congo’s many ills looms over Olivia’s spiritual journey. The book highlights real-world issues, such as the continued exploitation of the region’s people and natural resources, tourists being kidnapped, and an area trying to rebuild after being ravaged by civil war and genocide. While Olivia attempts to improve herself, and overcome her grief, she also tries to transform the places she lives, and that’s the point. While we are all facing our own personal tragedies, Hands Full of Ashes shows that we can heal by reaching out, and making the lives around us better.
Soul Mate Publishing