Seventeen year old Lydia Gibbhas, the daughter of a Sacramento pastor, works in a Christian shop and yearns to be a photographer. A missionary contact of her father's offers her a chance to travel to Tanzania, where she becomes ensnared in the cruel world of big game hunting and the complicated lives of an expatriate family with lots of secrets.
The story is told against the backdrop of the beautiful wildlife of Tanzania and the constant tensions between that wildlife and humans - whether hunters, conservationists or ordinary villagers trying to live and farm alongside the wild animals. The reader is drawn into the beautiful world of wild Tanzania and, with Lydia, sucked into the terrifying and corrupt world of big game hunting that threatens to destroy this wild beauty.
This is a gripping and insightful coming of age novel, which reads like a thriller. Lydia's journey from naive young Californian to young woman aware of the dangers of the world is entirely convincing. Minor characters are also well drawn, with the corrupt hunting safari manager Paul being particularly unlikeable, but all too believable.
Can the hunters and villagers learn to live together with each other and the wildlife? Can Lydia find a way of using her photographic skills to help wildlife and people? Can Lydia's parents learn to accept that their daughter has grown up?
At the end the reader is far more aware of the complexities of the obstacles facing conservation of African wildlife, but this isn't a book that offers a vision of easy answers to the complicated problems that face the wildlife and people of Tanzania.
Thanks to Story Cartel I downloaded a free review copy of Rhinoceros Summer by Jamie Thornton