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Reviewed by Karen Pirnot for Readers' Favorite
Keeping Hope Alive is an inspirational novel by Somalian author Dr. Hawa Abdi. Sarah J. Robbins has done an excellent job of translating the book to highlight the personality and strength of the author. Dr. Abdi was born into a strong family in which education was prized for both men and women. Her mother died when the author was twelve. A forced marriage ensued but she continued to hope. Eventually she attended medical school in the then Soviet Union. Dr. Abdi returned to her native country, determined to help disadvantaged people. She initially operated in the capital Mogadishu but when the country gained independence, tribal warfare broke out. Dr. Abdi saw a great need for medical services in the flats and the bush lands and she bought substantial pieces of land in the next few years. When the Mogadishu hospital was threatened by the expanding wars, Dr. Abdi built a hospital on her land. Eventually, her refuge was called Hawa Abdi and it would house 90,000 refugees and homeless.
What Dr. Abdi accomplished is only half of the story. Her courage and strength of character is unrivaled in its time. Her willingness to take on warlords and Muslim extremists trying to control and dehumanize women is both commendable and striking. As a traditional Muslim woman, Dr. Abdi abhorred the mutations in her own religion and she fought to treat women as equal to men. The horror of the famine and criminality of conflict in Somalia over three decades is told factually, with both the horror and the victory graphically detailed. Tradition versus equality and social progress is still a paramount problem and the reader will get both a wonderful education and a sense of awe at the ability of one woman to change what is wrong by simply doing the right thing. This unique novel details a special combination of both nurturing and warrior traits in a woman working against all odds to save a nation she loves. It captured me from the first moment and it did not let go!