I wondered if the author could pull off writing about two different travel experiences and a love story without losing the narrative, but author Eve Brown-Waite engrossed me with a style that is refreshingly down-to-earth.
First Comes Love, Then Comes Malaria is a compelling story of a woman who falls in love—in more ways than one—in Ecuador and Uganda.
The book opens at a logical beginning, when Brown-Waite meets John, the Peace Corps recruiter she tries to woo at least in part by joining up. The Peace Corps assigns the self-described “pampered city girl” to Ecuador, where hilarity—and some serious stuff, too—ensues. Brown-Waite finds a worthwhile project when she begins returning lost boys living in an orphanage to their families.
But Ecuador wasn’t meant to be. Circumstances change and Brown-Waite returns to the U.S. She marries her Peace Corps recruiter but laments her unfinished work in Ecuador.
Brown-Waite gets a chance at a karmic finish to her Peace Corps work when she and John move to unstable Uganda. As expected, more hijinks follow.
In Uganda, Brown-Waite hopes to finally live out her self-professed dream of becoming another Angelina Jolie. She admits she feels the need to prove herself after being unable to complete her stint in the Peace Corps.
As her husband begins his humanitarian work, Brown-Waite must again find her own purpose while an entertaining cast of characters and situations bombard her life. She eventually begins to work on AIDS education and prevention, which opens up yet another set of challenges.
She and John start a family, battle critters in their home, work and live amid political instability, and get caught in a civil war before their Ugandan adventure ends. And, as expected, she contracts malaria.
Brown-Waite’s story offers a refreshing balance between the struggles of Western humanitarians in the third world and self-deprecating humor. The result is a relatable story any reader would enjoy. Brown-Waite includes letters sent to friends and family while living abroad at the end of each chapter, which further enriches her narrative.
While some may be grossed out by the mushy love story, the book provides fascinating insights into both Peace Corps and ex-pat life in developing countries. Brown-Waite vividly relays scenes that are both humorous and heartbreaking. She manages to convey the severity of the problems in Ecuador and Uganda while remaining upbeat for an engaging read.
The book provides a hard look at what it means for a Westerner to try to heal the wounds of developing countries while facing the cultural divide and adjusting to a jarringly different lifestyle. Brown-Waite’s honesty and wit make real those conflicts.
After reading First Comes Love, Then Comes Malaria, I’m eager to read more about the Waite family’s adventures. For now, though, I’m content to follow her at her blog.
First Comes Love, Then Comes Malaria is a must-read for anyone considering joining the Peace Corps or working in a developing country. It’s one that will resonate with anyone who has dreamed—maybe a little naively—of saving the world.
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