The Importance of Community and a Book Review

I want to start by saying thank you for your patience and for sticking with me. I was on brief hiatus, but now I’m back to blogging!

I consider myself in a lucky living situation: nice apartment, dog-friendly, safe neighborhood, ocean view, and having good neighbors. I live in a big city where having one of those qualities is considered grounds for celebration. But the quality that is most easily taken for granted is having nice neighbors — the kind that turn your neighborhood into a community.

In my last neighborhood, we lived on a small street tucked between a popular (but rather unsafe) neighborhood and a quieter, more family oriented one. The weather was warm nearly year-round, public transit was within walking distance, and restaurants were king. One of the major disadvantages was one that is typical of living in a big city: anonymity. While some people move to big cities for that very reason, I found it lonely and unsafe. I think the only neighbors on our street that actually spoke to each other were related. There was no real sense of community. Coming from a small town, this kind of behavior wasn’t only disappointing, but foreign.

Things changed dramatically when I moved into the apartment I live in now. I attribute that partly to my neighbors. There are two in particular that have been friendly, kind, and generous. My upstairs neighbor in particular has gone out of her way, more times than I can count, to be friendly. And it’s because of her that I ended up with a copy of The Last Resort: A Memoir of Mischief and Mayhem on a Family Farm in Africa in my hands.

I had never heard of the book before, I had never been to Africa, and I know very little about farming. But when someone lends me a book, I read it. Not always right away, but I read it.

The Last Resort is hard to put down. It’s exactly as the title suggests: a story of a family, their farm in Africa, and the crazy journey they embark on to keep it. The story is written by the son of the couple that runs the farm, Douglas Rogers, who happens to also be a travel writer. He chronicles the struggle his family faces as the country plunges deeper into political unrest after Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe orders the “reclamation” of  white-owned farms. This puts a target directly on Drifters, the travel lodge that Rogers’ parents own and operate.

The Last Resort book cover

One of the few book covers that is explained by the text.

What makes The Last Resort engaging are the interwoven stories of Drifters, the Rogers family, and the cast of characters Douglas knows (and meets) along the way. Their stories seem unreal times, with their celebrity, secrecy, and tales of the past, but they help to tell a larger narrative: the people’s history of Zimbabwe. It is inspiring the way that the Rogers family, and Zimbabweans alike, manage to survive, rather than simply suffer, each challenge thrown their way. They seem to have a never-ending ability to roll with the punches rather than get bogged down by a world of constant upheaval and uncertainty.

So what does The Last Resort have to do with the earlier discussion of my living situation? It was the community the Rogers family is part of during the book prompted this entry. While neighbors came and went over the course of the story, there is much emphasis placed on the connections between people and one’s hope for stability. What I mean is, it was the connections between friends, and other times strangers, that seemed to help the Rogers. Whether it was exchanging currency or maintaining the lodge, those connections were crucial for their survival and continued hope. Without a good community, life can seem lonely and bleak, making the simple task of putting one foot in front of the other, monumental.

The Last Resort is a great book and definitely worth a read especially if you’re interested in politics, Africa, and/or travel. But I’m warning you — you will turn the last page with a lingering curiosity. I finished the book with an additional item tacked on to my list of life’s to-dos: visit Zimbabwe and stay at Drifters. And I know I’m not alone! Until then, there are other ways to connect with the book and the author which I have listed below.

Ways to connect with the book:

  • Purchase it from your favorite book seller or borrow a copy from your local library.
  • Check out the group on Facebook. Mr. Rogers participates and responds to comments.
  • Watch a promo for the documentary and donate if you’d like.
  • Visit Mr. Rogers’ website to learn more about him and the book.
  • Stay up-to-date with the author on his blog.
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