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Dar Es Salaam

This is the story of the emotional awakening of a perceptive and precocious 14-year-old English girl, Tatum, while on vacation with her family in Tanzania.
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Kai adds an intriguing spin to the coming-of-age formula in her impressive debut, which deals with the persistent efforts of the 14-year-old British narrator, Tatum, to seduce Mohammed, an older Indian friend of her stepfather, Jack. The seduction takes place in the capital city of Tanzania when Tatum's family arrives there for an extended vacation. Tatum's attraction is instant and it quickly becomes obsessive. Mohammed, meanwhile, is a fairly innocuous love object-a 40-year-old warehouse worker whose obvious kindness and intelligence are mitigated by his inexplicable lack of success with women, although he is clearly drawn to Tatum from the beginning. He lives with his mother, lacks a steady girlfriend and has a fairly tepid friendship with Jack. Kai captures the teenage state of mind perfectly, exploring Tatum's alternating cycles of despair and ecstasy as she processes thoughts and feelings about her would-be lover. The moment when the two come together is something of a letdown, although Kai superbly captures Tatum's ambivalence during the act itself, which takes place when her family briefly returns to London and she talks her parents into letting her spend the interlude with Mohammed and his mother. A certain lack of romantic suspense hampers the story's progress, but Kai shows considerable promise, particularly in her characterizations. 6-city author tour. (Oct. 1) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

This charming debut novel details the growing maturity of a 14-year-old English girl named Tatum on an extended summer holiday in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Soaking up the reds and purples of the desert sunsets as well as the melodic tones of Bantu in the marketplace, Tatum is also an avid observer of people. She meets her stepfather's longtime friend, Mohammed (a.k.a. "Mo"), who charms and flatters her with his attention, and forms a crush that quickly turns into an obsession. At first, Mo doesn't realize the nature of Tatum's feelings but family members and others see clearly what is happening. Kai (English literature, Florida Intl. Univ.) immerses her readers in the delightful sights, smells, and sounds of Tanzania's capital city and draws sympathetic, believable characters in Tatum; her sister, Mona; and Mo. Even though the plot of a teenage girl discovering her sexuality and falling for an older man is familiar territory, Kai sets the story in a city that will be very unfamiliar to most readers. In addition, she holds readers' attention by keeping the book's pacing taut and tense up until the end. Medium-sized and larger public and academic libraries will want to purchase this first novel.-Lisa Nussbaum, Dauphin Cty. Lib. Syst., Harrisburg, PA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

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