Auma's Long Run

Auma, a rural Kenyan teenager in the years when HIV/AIDS became a national plague, is a strong runner and excellent student who desperately wants to become a doctor. But when both of her parents get sick and die, her plan to achieve her dreams is derailed; as eldest, she acts as caretaker to her dying parents, then (after their deaths), to her three siblings. She thinks, "the three of them were depending on me to make their dreams a reality.... As frightened as I might be, I was determined not to fail."

Auma shows great maturity, first dealing with her father's death from HIV/AIDS and then caring for her mother, who contracted the disease from her husband. Somehow, Auma is able to graduate from grade eight, win track meets and do all the chores necessary in her rural household, but she constantly questions her situation. A natural student, Auma is inquisitive about the illness that killed her parents, and learns more about it, discovering truths that the adults in her community will not acknowledge.

Driven Auma earns a high school scholarship, but after one year, she makes the tough decision to drop out, so that she can work in Nairobi and earn money to support her family. Readers will find themselves aligning with Auma as she hopes she will eventually return to school. In prose as forthright as Auma herself, Eucabeth Odhiambo tells a story of resilience and strength. Odhiambo, who grew up in Kenya in the '80s and '90s, saw the effects of the disease first hand; this experience plus her work with HIV/AIDs orphans helps her give life to the authentic and realistic character of Auma--a young woman to believe in--and to put a human face on the epidemic that still affects Kenya. --Melinda Greenblatt, freelance book reviewer

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