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Land for Fatimah    by Veena Gokhale order for
Land for Fatimah
by Veena Gokhale
Order:  USA  Can
Guernica, 2018 (2018)
Softcover, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Barbara Lingens

Foreign aid is very much in the news. Questions about its effectiveness abound. Often there are several organizations in the same country, sometimes working at cross purposes. The news we hear is usually from the outside, rarely from the inside. Land for Fatimah tells a story from the inside and is therefore truly welcome.

The simple version of the story is that Fatimah is seeking land that was promised to her. She is befriended by Anjali, who has been posted to Fatimah's country by her Canadian non-profit organization for one year. Anjali is very idealistic and has to learn many things. Helping people in another country is complex. The bureaucracies of the donors as well as the recipients have to be dealt with. Then there are local customs, and importantly, the issues of language. Anjali tries to make a difference and finds out how hard it is to be an outsider trying to deal with another country's rules, customs and expectations. We see this very plainly because Anjali is very fair in her assessments of what is happening.

One difficulty with the book is that there are a lot of characters! Even with the list provided in the beginning of the book it is hard to keep track of people. We meet members of the household where Anjali resides, Fatimah's family, Anjali's family, non-profit colleagues, as well as others. There are actually several stories here, and at some points the story line seems to be veering off in another direction. Fortunately, though, things do come together at the end, and we are left with an empathetic picture of how it must be for the poor in Africa who have been displaced, and who look for assistance wherever they can get it.

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