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Reviewed by Cheryl E. Rodriguez for Readers' Favorite
David Hartness’ Amani’s River is an emotionally charged, gut wrenching work of fiction. Sitting on the banks of a river outside the small village of Homoine, Mozambique, Aderito’s mind drifts as he listens to the tranquil sounds. With his mother’s ashes in his hands, Aderito shares the nightmare of his childhood with his wife and son. Until the age of ten, Aderito lived in Houston, Texas. But, his father felt the need to return to his homeland of Mozambique. Moving and living in Mozambique was a huge culture shock, unknowns engulfed Aderito. After a few months, Aderito met a young girl, Victoria. They become the best of friends. One day as they were playing at the river, the RENAMO arrived and brutally abducted them. Victoria was repeatedly raped into submission and Aderito was savagely trained to be a soldier. The only way to please his captors was to mindlessly kill. Days turned into years, his memories faded, he realized he has lost his soul. Escape was suicide. Yet, there is a yearning within, the voice of hope faintly calls, and Aderito finds himself “running toward immemorial memory.” A place of peace, peace like a river... Amani’s River.
David Hartness has spent most of his adult life living in Africa. While in the Peace Corps, he was an education volunteer in Mozambique. He immersed himself in their culture and in return they captured his heart and soul. Amani’s River is written in first person narrative, therefore, as the reader, you hear the story through Aderito’s character. This writing technique places you in the setting as the story unfolds. Your heart pounds with fear, stops with acts of cruelty, and aches for the burdens of the characters. The novel is very well written. The plot flows with an element of anxiousness, fearful apprehension. Hartness vividly exposes the harsh realities and brutality of war. The character development is intensely graphic, page after page reveals the transformation of a young boy into a brainwashed child soldier. The story is gripping, revealing the truth – “no winners could be declared in war!" I have close friends who are missionaries in Mozambique. They, too, desire to give their lives for the people of Mozambique, to make a contribution, hoping to bring hope to the next generation.