The Siren of Good Intentions

No Path Leads Where You Think It Will

Fiction - Adventure
568 Pages
Reviewed on 09/15/2020
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Saifunnissa Hassam for Readers' Favorite

J. E. Mooney's The Siren of Good Intentions: No Path Leads Where You Think It Will is an adventure novel set in 1978 in Senegal, Mali, and Guinea. American Victor Byrnes has just finished a Peace Corps project along the Senegal River. In Dakar, he is hired as the logistics director for scientists headed for the remote regions along the Senegal River, to assess the environmental impact of a planned hydroelectric dam. Doria and Nigel Blake are British. Nigel is the director in West Africa for a global food company. When Doria and Victor meet at a get-together for the scientists at the Blakes' home, they are irresistibly attracted to each other. Seeing the plight of Dakar's impoverished and ailing children, Doria learns more about traditional plant medicines. Her knowledge takes a giant leap forward when she meets the powerful traditional healer Mbattu Sisay in Senegal's Casamance rain forest. As events unfold, Victor, his close friend Mammadu, and two scientists find themselves trapped in a deadly fight near the remote Guinea diamond mines.

I greatly enjoyed J. E. Mooney's The Siren of Good Intentions for its fascinating characters, particularly Doria. I loved the evocative, vibrant, richly detailed setting of West Africa. I liked the challenges Doria faces, learning about traditional healing in a culture with traditions and beliefs very different from her own. I liked her courage, determination, and growing confidence in creating her own research workshop in the rain forest region. I found Victor's character an enigma. He speaks French and Oulof, has Senegalese friends, and clearly loves the remote West African regions. But he feels adrift. When he and Doria fall in love, there is no going back. I liked the way J. E. Mooney weaves the thoughts and feelings of the characters into the novel. The story also springs vividly to life through West African characters, such as Victor's close friend, Mammadu, the healer Sisay, and the smuggler David Semba. A fascinating and very enjoyable novel of how a quest to learn about traditional plant medicines transforms into a life-changing journey.