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Official Review: A Bucket of Warm Water by Heather Allen

Please use this sub-forum to discuss any non-fiction books such as autobiographies or political commentary books.

Official Review: A Bucket of Warm Water by Heather Allen

Post Number:#1 by Elaine5
» 12 Mar 2017, 14:07

[Following is an official OnlineBookClub.org review of "A Bucket of Warm Water" by Heather Allen.]

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3 out of 4 stars
Review by Elaine5
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A Bucket of Warm Water is the story of the author and her husband's four year stay in the small African village of Dungu, Zaire. They are Canadians who were working for an NGO funded primarily by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). Brendan worked as a medical transport pilot and Heather (Carole) as an English teacher.

Carole and Brendan had grown children and a content life in British Columbia when the opportunity to work in Zaire presented itself. They were ready for adventure and prepared to embrace an opportunity to improve their French language skills and make a contribution. The author caught my attention in the foreward when she wrote "What we couldn’t possibly appreciate was how deeply we would grow to love the people, how much we would learn in four short years, and how utterly grateful we would become for the experience." The book is a beautifully written memoir of that experience and that foreshadowing was one of many that highlighted the delightful unpredictability that life often brings. Our expectations are often surpassed and moments that seem small or insignificant can be life changing in retrospect. These truths came through loud and clear.

The author gently and insightfully writes about politics, disease, education (or lack of) for women, poverty, corruption and war through her own personal experiences in Zaire. When they first arrive in 1989, things are relatively stable in and around Dungu. This allows them to comfortably settle into village life and adjust to their new world. As time goes on, the political situation in Zaire and surrounding countries becomes less and less stable, creating situations that an average Canadian could hardly imagine. After buying green tomatoes from a young boy so that he could buy malaria medication, the author wrote "I longed for the security of Canada where children didn’t go hungry and mothers didn’t search every day for almost enough food to feed their family."

The writing is introspective, contrasting the Canadian and African cultures as lived by Carole and Brendon. The sense of community and generosity in Dungu versus the individual nature of North American culture stood out as a theme. Even the poorest families in Dungu welcomed refugees fleeing looting and riots in larger cities. If a guest was at the table, he was generously fed, even if it meant going without tomorrow. Other contrasts were also highlighted such as the reality and closeness of death versus our somewhat removed, antiseptic view of it. Another was the life and death nature of politics as opposed to it being "a mere abstraction to be debated over dinner."

The reader also gets to know others who live in Dungu through Carole's relationships. She makes meaningful connections and I enjoyed reading about her friendships. It was obvious that she came to love and care for several people as family. It was also wonderful to learn about some of the traditions and beliefs of this very different culture. For example, when a man drowned in the river, the community gathered to sing and light fires to entice the water spirits to return the body to them.

Unfortunately, there are several errors in the book that did detract from my enjoyment of it. One error that was found repeatedly seemed to be a formatting error where a new paragraph was started mid sentence. I also noted some missing words and typing errors.

Overall, I found this to be a beautiful book about a very human, life changing experience. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys memoirs and stories of personal growth. I would particularly recommend it to anyone with an interest in international aid. The errors in the book force me to deduct a star and rate this book 3 out of 4 stars.

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A Bucket of Warm Water
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Re: Official Review: A Bucket of Warm Water by Heather Allen

Post Number:#2 by kandscreeley
» 15 Mar 2017, 07:40

It's always enlightening to learn about another culture especially one such as this. It sounds like the author did a good job in the treatment of the subject even with the few errors. Thanks for the review.
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Re: Official Review: A Bucket of Warm Water by Heather Allen

Post Number:#3 by greenstripedgiraffe
» 15 Mar 2017, 07:56

This sounds like a wonderful memoir. It is wise to learn about other cultures, as it helps one become a more whole person. We can't all travel to the different countries, so a good memoir like this helps expand horizons. Thanks for the review! :tiphat:
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Re: Official Review: A Bucket of Warm Water by Heather Allen

Post Number:#4 by Elaine5
» 15 Mar 2017, 11:11

Yes, it is a wonderful memoir and it was a wonderful way to learn about another culture. Enlightening indeed! Thank you both for your comments.
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Re: Official Review: A Bucket of Warm Water by Heather Allen

Post Number:#5 by gali
» 17 Mar 2017, 09:01

Sounds like an interesting memoir. It is great when one can learn about other cultures through the book. Too about the errors, though. Thank you for the great review!
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Re: Official Review: A Bucket of Warm Water by Heather Allen

Post Number:#6 by Elaine5
» 17 Mar 2017, 10:36

Definitely interesting! Thanks for commenting.
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