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Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite
When Joseph Muamba, the eldest of nine children, was “sold” by his Congolese parents as an adolescent to an American couple looking to adopt, nobody understood the impact this young man would have one day on the strife-torn, poverty-stricken African nation. Blood Gold in the Congo by Peter Ralph sees Joseph initially struggling to adapt to life in the US, until the young man discovers he has a natural talent for all sports. After being convinced he was perfectly suited for the Decathlon, Joseph aims for the Beijing Olympics in 2008. To everyone’s surprise, Joseph is determined to compete for the country of his birth rather than his adopted country and he returns the first Olympic Medal and a Gold Medal, to boot, for the Democratic Republic of the Congo. A national hero, Joseph sees his new status as an opportunity to work for the empowerment of the poor, downtrodden Congolese people in this mineral-rich country. Rich, powerful, and corrupt businessmen and politicians all want Joseph to work for their interests, to secure their wealth and power in the Congo, but Joseph feels he is pulled by a greater destiny to restore dignity and fairness to a country wracked by civil war and a brutal, murderous regime.
Author Peter Ralph was inspired by true events in the Congo to pen his novel, Blood Gold in the Congo, and his rendition of this tale is truly wonderful. From the very first pages, the reader is drawn in and rooting for this little boy, uprooted from his family and everything he knows, to be transplanted into an alien setting, albeit a very gilded one, in the United States. The story is an action/adventure worthy of “Boys Own” magazine and yet also has great undercurrents of social comment and extremely relevant issues of corruption of power that are well worth discussing and rereading. I enjoyed this book immensely and found the author's style easy and captivating. The secondary characters are developed and imbued with realism equally as well as Joseph Muamba was, especially his two boyhood friends, Maya and Yannick. Probably the saddest thing about this story is that it could have been written and equally applicable to almost all of the colonized African nations of the late twentieth century. The powers that ruled Africa for over a century inevitably left behind a legacy of corruption, violence and a power vacuum that would spur racial, ethnic and clan wars for decades after their departure. The recent revelations by CNN of child labour exploitation in cobalt mining in the Congo merely confirms the premise Ralph used for the basis of this novel. This is an outstanding read and simply a wonderful action/adventure story.