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Monday, March 2, 2015

Review: A Kiss at Kihali by Ruth Harris

I was amazed to stumble onto a review of A Kiss at Kihali, a romance centered around the rhino poaching crisis in Africa. The author expressed a desire to create awareness of the problem through fun fiction. It's an idea I've been kicking around, myself! So of course I had to read it right away.

The novel begins with a chapter from the the point of view of a baby female rhinoceros. It's adorable and ultimately heart-wrenching. I'm not sure words can convey just how cute and goodnatured baby rhinos are, but since I have a good sense of their qualities, the first chapter really drew me in.

The baby ends up at the Kihali orphanage. The saga of the way she's drawn out of her depression to flourish and play with other animals (elephants and a goat, most notably) parallels the way the wounded humans come together and heal each other through their love of animals and each other. The background of the new vet, Starlite, is interesting for the glimpse it gives of how animal theme parks in America operate and the politics of public expectation versus what wild animals actually do. On the whole, however, I didn't find the human relationships very compelling or deeply developed. I haven't read a lot of romance novels, so perhaps I'm not the target audience.

The best part of the novel is the way the baby rhino helps the humans solve the mystery. She more or less testifies with evidence, and then brings about some of the sentencing. That's a pair of wonderful moments I'm sure I won't forget.

I admire the reason this novel was written and hope it fulfills that purpose. Set in Kenya, it's far from the epicenter of the poaching epidemic. This allows the book an optimistic cast (which I appreciate), but leaves a lot for the reader to extrapolate. Please read this book if you'd like to get started on basic rhino facts in a light, playful way.

Novels I've Read in 2015:
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Along the Far Shores by Kristin Gleeson

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel