We have an excellent local bookstore in my community called Present Tense. On a recent visit, I was browsing for something to read and came across the paperback edition of the Philip Caputo novel Acts of Faith. Philip Caputo is a Pulitzer Prize winning writer. Long books usually give me the urge to keep browsing, this one is 669 pages, and I was reluctant to buy it until I discovered it was about the Darfur region of Sudan.
All I know about Darfur is what I've read in magazines, newspapers, blogs, and news reports on CNN. For many of us, Africa has become the forgotten continent. We view events there from a distance and find it difficult to find a connection to our lives. The famine in Darfur is one of the greatest human tragedies in recent times. Philip Caputo brings this tragedy to us through the eyes of the people working for relief agencies. This includes the aid workers, missionaries, and pilots that fly the food and material to the people in need in the middle of a civil war between the Sudanese Government and the rebels.
The characters include missionaries who are trying to convert the natives to Christianity, a long established practice in Africa. The airline charter companies are trying to make money by flying cargo into the affected areas. The pilots are there because they love to fly and want to make a few bucks in the process. Some have altruistic motives, but most of them are there for the flying even if it means dodging attacks from the Sudanese armed forces trying to prevent the relief goods from reaching their destination.
If you want to find out more about Darfur through the eyes of the people directly involved, even though this is a work of fiction, I don't think you will find a better novel to inform you. The book starts out at an even pace, but just keeps getting better and better. The characters are very believable and you are soon drawn into their stories. I found this book so compelling I did not want it to end.
Here is a quote from The New Yorker that appears on the "acclaim page"of the book:
"Nothing is omitted in this ambitious novel depicting the turbulent lives of several aid workers at the height of theSudanese civil war....Caputo may have set out to write an epic parable about the dangers of uncritical belief, but he ended up with, quite simply, a great story."
Read this book. You will not be disappointed.