Item description for The Leper Compound by Paula Nangle...
"The Leper Compound will . . . remain with the reader long after the book has been closed."-Stuart Dybek, author of I Sailed with Magellan
For Colleen, motherless at seven, isolated from her schizophrenic younger sister, illness unleashes the uncanny and essential of human identity. Growing into womanhood in Rhodesia's final conflict-ridden years, she transgresses social, racial, and political boundaries in her search for connection. This masterly novel is a searing evocation of late-twentieth-century African life.
Paula Nangle was raised by missionaries in the United States and southern Africa and now lives in Benton Harbor, Michigan. This is her first novel.
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Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 0.5" Width: 5.25" Height: 8" Weight: 0.52 lbs.
Release Date Jan 1, 2008
Publisher Bellevue Literary Press
ISBN 1934137065 ISBN13 9781934137062
Availability 0 units.
More About Paula Nangle
Paula Nangle was raised by missionaries in the US and southern Africa and directly witnessed the transition of Rhodesia to Zimbabwe. She is a practicing psychiatric nurse and an advocate for patient's rights. An MFA in creative writing graduate of Western Michigan University, she has published fiction in a number of literary magazines. This is her first novel.
Reviews - What do customers think about The Leper Compound?
Coming of age in southern Africa Jul 21, 2008
This short novel tells essentially the life story of Colleen, through her childhood and school years to her adult life in Africa. The arc of the story seems to follow her family, and we are given snapshots of her life as the years go by in the chapters. Most notably, the novel seems to show the struggle between classes, the challenge of living, and gives us an intimate look into the different and contradictory cultures of southern Africa.
I can't say that I liked Colleen. For some reason, it's very difficult to feel attached to her, and perhaps this is Nangle's prose style. None of the characters are particularly sympathetic and there just never came a moment when I cared what happened to her. The book was interesting and extremely literary. There is so much that I could derive from this book if I tried - it would be an excellent subject for a paper and it presents plenty of subjects, not the least of which is the leprosy in the title, but also includes the mental illness of Colleen's sister and the violence of the rebels.
In truth, The Leper Compound is a very thoughtful and well-written book. It went slowly, but I don't regret the time spent reading it, especially given that it is under 200 pages. This is a worthy look into Africa's culture, an important reminder when so many Americans are insulated against it. Colleen experiences many emotions that are very common, like finding her first love, and this is essentially a tale of her coming of age, but the backdrop is so different, and even the prose style makes her experiences different and special.
Would I recommend this book? I would say yes, but I wouldn't read it for enjoyment or escapism - it is a book that is meant to be pondered over and carefully considered, and I'm glad that I had the opportunity to do so.
A Moving Coming of Age Story May 23, 2008
For me, the sign of a great book is that it not only entertains, but it also challenges and teaches me. This in turn changes me just a bit. The Leper Compound does this beautifully. This is a fictional story of Colleen, a white girl, growing up in South Africa in the eighties during severe political unrest. Her father is a coffee farmer who has been widowed and left with two young daughters. We learn Colleen's mother died when she was seven and her younger sister is slowly losing her mind.
The story progresses from the time right after the mother dies through Colleen's teenage years, her time as a nurse, her marriage, and the birth of her son. This is a short book with just 192 pages, but there is an abundance of wealth in those pages, from the gorgeous writing, to the painful coming of age story of Colleen.
The author of the book lived in Africa with her missionary parents growing up, and is currently a psychiatric nurse. My hope is that she can retire and spend all her time writing, because she truly has a gift and I will be first in line to read more.
An excellent debut Apr 5, 2008
Paula Nangle's debut novel, The Leper Compound, is a book I won't soon forget. I'm tempted to call it a novel-in-stories as each chapter is perfectly self-contained and yet the whole does provide one full narrative. Regardless, it is a brilliant effort.
The book starts out with Colleen as a motherless child ill with Malaria and ends with the death of her father and with her mentally ill sister finally finding a mother in their father's new wife. Throughout, Colleen struggles with her sense of identity and her desire to make sense of life and death--she is a lover, a nurse, a mother--and through it all, an outsider.
All of this could take place anywhere at any time, but it does not: it takes place in the waning years of Rhodesia. A fascinating back drop lending the book political and social overtones and adding to its richness (especially poignant with Zimbabwe so present in the news these days).
Nangle writes beautifully--her words are moving and yet never overdone. It would have been easy for her to be melodramatic with her subject matter. Instead, she opts for clean, precise language.
I hope to read more from her and I hope that you will look for this book and read it and allow it to move you in the way it has moved me.