3 out of 4 stars
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A Thousand Points of Light by Marc-Vincent Jackson is the author’s debut novel. The story, for the most part, focuses on Fatou Ka, a devout Senegalese young woman, who is struggling to rise above her meager means and gain the love of a folklore hero, imaginary Samba n’Diaye.
Born in a poor Muslim village in Senegal to a father who had several easily forgotten wives, Fatou had no real chance to a better life. When old enough, she went through the customary genital mutilation, and as a consequence, she almost died of an infection.
When she couldn’t take it anymore, before being forced to marry a guy she never cared for, she took her mother and fled the village to Dakar, the capital of Senegal, where she hoped to start a new life. She joined a group of homeless people and became a beggar as well because lacked the money to feed herself, her mother, and her unborn child. Yet she would never give up on her dream to find the great warrior that would come to save her from a life in misery.
We also get introduced to Madior, a griot (bard), who was in love with Fatou and decided that his next story would be about her life, and Malcolm Lavelle King, an African-American volunteer who was sent to Senegal as part of his mission. In Fatou’s dreamy mind, Malcolm becomes Samba n’Diaye, so she desperately tries to win his love.
The first part of the story is told in almost a poetic fashion. At the beginning, using appropriate words, the writer does a good job of taking us to the world of the poor living in Senegal. When Malcolm enters the picture, the writing perks up to a more modern and dynamic style. Malcolm is a disgruntled volunteer who can’t wait to get back home to his cozy and comfortable life. He plays loud music and generally cares little about his peers. Right until Fatou gets close to him and he somehow falls madly in love with her.
Their relationship is strained, however. The author, with his skillful writing, brought together two very different lifestyles heading towards each other in what would become an explosive ending. Malcolm, coming from America, is a free spirit. He never had troubles mixing with and befriending other women. On the other hand, Fatou turned out to be an extremely jealous partner who would slowly drain the life out of Malcolm. Yet, strangely, when she is not around, he can hardly wait to be with her once again.
However, I could never fully warm up to Fatou’s character. All she wanted was Samba’s love. Much to my disappointment, she never showed any interest in taking her daughter away from a life on the streets. Even Malcolm learned about Fatou’s daughter on the very last few pages of the very long book. While I could forgive Fatou for many things, this was definitely not one of them.
As I mentioned above, the book is very long. Amazon has it at 400 pages, however, the writing in the pdf file was so tiny that the book might actually be closer to 700 pages. A lot of the later chapters changed to Malcolm’s numerous political discussions with his friends and peers, in passages that didn’t hold my attention all that much. Along the way, the book’s scope has shifted quite a bit from its original premise. There were entire scenes where Fatou was not even mentioned.
A Thousand Points of Light is an interesting read involving a place in the world that I know little to nothing about. The book title itself refers to the non-profit organization launched by George W. Bush to support volunteerism in Africa, a group which the author himself was part of during Bush’s presidency. Sadly, the text has many grammatical mistakes, including closing quotation marks which have no opening equivalents or vice-versa, or errors like “Ali wonders if he’s made is daughter unmarriageable,” “It’s very power,” or “there are important thing to discuss.”
While the story was a pleasant read, due to these issues I rate it 3 out of 4 stars. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading tales about African countries or wants to learn more about volunteering in the region. There is romance in the book; however, there are no adult scenes at all, so it can be read by anyone who wants their books rather “safe.”
A Thousand Points of Light
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