The Dallas Mercenary by M. E. Oren
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I recently learned that The Dallas Mercenary is now available in local libraries and I am thrilled for the author. This is a book that should be widely available to adults and young-adults alike, and, in my opinion, should certainly be on school reading lists. A previous reviewer says that Mr. Oren’s book tells a big story. I would agree in that it captures vividly and evocatively the vast distance between the comfortable suburbs of London and the squalid slums of the Mathary Valley in Kenya, where “rusty, ramshackle structures”called homes are interspersed only with the odd rotting rubbish heap and rivulets of sewage run freely in the streets. A place where starving people and animals compete for air thick with pollution; where young homeless boys – the Parking boys – learn through necessity the art of survival by whatever means available. To eat and find a place warm to sleep when the temperature drops to a bone-seeping chill is their day-to-day aim. To rise above their squalor and have a place they can call “home” is their dream.
Cleverly interweaving a back-story against a backdrop of dire poverty and corrupt politics, M E Oren tells the story of three people: A lost little boy, J’Alex. Sally-Anne, a twenty-three year old undergraduate, who, having previously befriended the boy whilst based in Kenya on a university project, is determined to revisit a country now torn by civil warfare and find him – and Biggy, a product of his own childhood and his struggle to survive in what Biggy himself terms a rubbish dump: Mathary Valley, originally a land-full site where they “dump the waste people”.
Through Mr. Oren’s excellent storytelling and Sally-Anne’s eyes, we see the naivety of a young girl to the grim reality of the Mathary Valley inhabitants’ existence. Through Biggy’s eyes, we see in the political naivety and tribal ignorance of children driven to do what they have to: Simply, to survive.
Fleshed out with other believable, yet richly colourful characters, The Dallas Mercenary is indeed a big book, a valuable learning tool – and a totally engrossing read. I didn’t put the book down until I’d finished it. And when I did, I shed a tear.
Thank you, M E Oren. This book will stay with me. I look forward with eager anticipation to your next book: DUDLHAM SINGS
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