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Reviewed by Jamie Michele for Readers' Favorite
The Lioness Never Cries by Kamal Malaker is an autobiography that chronicles the life of a doctor who qualified in Calcutta, India, and made his way to Sierra Leone to work as a physician during the 1960s. The era and setting portray the way of thinking at the time, from the expected and unexpected British mannerisms that he witnesses as he makes the journey to his first impressions of a formerly colonized country, told from the perspective of a person coming from a colonized country himself. Malaker is quickly immersed and the rigors of culture, particularly tribal, are felt deeply. He is party to great triumphs and heart-breaking losses, even becoming a patient himself after an accident that could have been so much worse. Still, through it all, Malaker comes forward with a story to share with the rest of us.
Memoirs, biographies, and autobiographies can be tricky to review because anything less than a sparkling assessment has the potential to seem to be a personal judgment of the author. I went into The Lioness Never Cries a bit leery and came out happy that this would be a positive evaluation. The prose is polished and authentic, utilizing the voice of Kamal Malaker in a way that quickly allows the reader to feel as if they know him. The pacing is on the slow side but not so much that it is difficult to navigate. The slower portions that occur while getting from one place to another are elevated by an almost cinematic description of the landscape. There is a part where Malaker is contemplating travel by a river route when a prominent figure in his life named Sister Thomas warns him that rivers are dangerous because boats can be capsized by crocodiles and hippos - a commute where the fear of death is a reality. Part autobiography and part working-travel memoir, this is a tightly written and engaging story and is highly recommended.