Medecins Sans Frontieres doctors—Doctors Without Borders—are surely modern day cowboys, adventurers, and heroes. We imagine them out in extreme conditions, dodging bullets, battling germs with every weapon at hand, containing epidemics with the most basic of materials available. Modern day heroes...but could you imagine being married to Superman?
Trailing is Kristing Louise Duncombe's story of doing just that. She enters into the marriage knowing that she will be putting aside her own plans for a career to "trail" after her husband Tano, but underestimates the devastating effect it will have on her psyche. They are promised a "safe" posting due to their married state, but safety is relative. In Africa they face cholera and Ebola breakouts as well as a devastating carjacking that leaves Duncombe reeling, trying to find firm footing in a world that suddenly seems frightening and overwhelming. This is the story of her journey into the unknown and back, of her struggle to hold onto, then redefine and reshape, her self and her marriage in a better image.
Having lived in Yemen for almost a decade, many of the scenes Duncombe described were familiar to me in many ways. At times I thought her shallow, obsessing over her problems and worries while so many bigger things were going on around her. After a few chapters, though, I realized that she was simply being truthful—something that is not easy, especially when it shows one in a not-so-favorable light. Her moments of introspection, of looking back at herself and those times from the present, demonstrated that she really had grown and changed, and that she realized how she must have seemed during those earlier days. I found myself cheering her and Tano on, wanting their marriage to work, hoping for a happy ending to their troubled first years.
Duncombe's memoir is not a travelogue about Kenya or Uganda. It doesn't tell us a lot about what things look like, or what everyday life is like in Africa. Instead of being a memoir of a place or a time, it is a story of an inner journey, of breaking up and breaking down and seeking to put the pieces back together to create something whole, and new and good. Does she make it? Read it, and find out for yourself.
Kristin Louise Duncombe is an American psychotherapist, consultant, and writer who has lived in France since 2001. Having grown up overseas as the child of a US diplomat, and having lived internationally most of her adult life, she has based her career on working with international and expatriate families. She has twenty years of experience in the United States, East Africa, and Europe. Visit her website.
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