Love in the Driest Season

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

When Neely Tucker and his wife Vita decide to volunteer at the Chinyaradzo Children’s Home in Harare, Zimbabwe, where he is posted as a foreign correspondent, they begin a journey which is to change their lives forever. In Zimbabwe, where the government refuses to admit a problem exists, one in four people between the ages of nineteen and forty-four are HIV positive, and the institution in Harare houses some of the estimated fourteen million children orphaned by this epidemic.

Tucker, who has reported from some of the world’s grimmest trouble spots, had been feeling numb to the point that he “could cover almost any horror but felt very little about anything at all.” However, when the three-year-old Chipo grasped onto his finger, Tucker was overcome with emotions he thought he could no longer experience. He learned that Chipo had been abandoned and left to die, hidden in tall grass and covered with ants when discovered. A doctor persuaded the Tuckers to take the dangerously ill child home and act as foster parents. Although she nearly died on several occasions, their determined care pulled her though, and they resolved to adopt her.

An agonizing journey through the Byzantine nightmare of the country’s bureaucracy begins as the couple is stymied at every turn. Although not illegal, adoption by foreigners was seriously frowned upon, and paperwork was lost, misplaced, and ignored. The Tuckers persevered with steely determination, camping outside of offices for hours, searching for lost files through stacks of paperwork, all the while fighting an approaching governmental crisis which poses a serious threat to all foreign journalists.

The Tuckers manage to successfully adopt Chipo and leave Zimbabwe shortly before the collapse of the government. Neely takes a job in Washington, D.C., giving up the addicting, but soul-stealing life of a globe-hopping correspondent for the love of a little girl. The tiny, helpless child rescued and given new life by the Tuckers in turn gives them new life as well.