Thursday, July 26, 2007

Book Review: When the Nile Runs Red

Author: DiAnn Mills
Publisher: Moody Publishers
ISBN: 0-8024-9911-2; 13: 978-0-8024-9911-0

It is July 2005. Sudan has endured more than twenty years of civil war, and every city, town and village across the country has suffered. But hope is alive now; the warring factions of the north and south have signed a peace treaty and a southern hero, John Garang, has agreed to be vice-president of the northern-based government.

Larson Farid, an American doctor, runs a clinic in the village of Warkou. The danger she faces is even more intense than the usual perils of warfare, for her husband, Paul, an Arab pilot for a charitable group called Feed the World, is a hunted man. He has rejected the religion of his youth, Islam, and converted to Christianity, a decision that has infuriated his powerful family. Colonel Ben Alier, who stills loves Larson despite her marriage to Paul, knows how urgently their skills are needed and he does everything he can to protect them.

Larson, Paul and Ben are also facing personal crises. Larson discovers that she is pregnant. She is unprepared for this and wonders how this will affect her medical ministry and her marriage. Paul’s brother, Nizam, is asking Paul questions about his Christian faith and wants to meet face-to-face with him. Paul is not certain whether Nizam’s queries are sincere, or an elaborate ploy to trap and capture him. And Ben, confronting his imminent death from cancer, seeks to reconnect with the family he deserted more than a decade earlier.

In addition to these political and personal dilemmas, Larson, Paul and Ben are struggling with spiritual questions. Larson and Paul’s questions center on identifying and obeying God’s will. Ben’s questions center on whether any religion offers him peace and hope for an uncertain future.

When the Nile Runs Red is full of action and its characters are unique and engaging. Paul and Larson flirt with each other, they argue with each other and they act like actual flesh and blood married couples. Larson is a doctor who has, of necessity, become a proficient marksman. Paul is an Arab Christian struggling to relinquish his past cultural biases. Ben is a hardened soldier who loves Larson and grudgingly respects Paul. He is fearless in military operations, yet apprehensive about how he will be received by his family. Even minor characters are carefully developed and Mills balances effectively description, back-story, action, dialogue and introspection. From its tense opening scene to its dramatic finish, the book’s plot is well constructed. The momentum never falters and the various political, personal and spiritual conflicts all meet and resolve at the conclusion.

This is DiAnn Mills’ third book about Sudan. She has spent time there and even “roughed it” in villages that lack running water and electricity to conduct her research. She has a deep knowledge of the lives and dreams of the Sudanese, and of the political and economic stresses with which they struggle. Her thorough knowledge of the Sudanese may be exceeded only by her compassion and respect for them.

Readers who enjoy Christian fiction and those who enjoy adventure stories will find plenty to like in this book and they will probably find it hard to put aside once they’ve begun reading.

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