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A Change in Altitude

by Anita Shreve


Shortly after their wedding in the late 197os, Patrick and Margaret travel to Africa, where Patrick, a young doctor, will work in research at a local hospital.  Margaret is a photographer, who is fascinated with the country and the people.  They become friends with an English couple, Arthur and Diana, and rent a cottage on their property. The new friends plan a trip along with a third couple, to climb Mt. Kenya. After extensive planning, they embark on the adventure. Their relationship with their new friends is filled with surprises, and Arthur seems to pay too much attention to Margaret, changing the entire dynamic of their friendship, and even Margaret and Patrick's marriage. Diana's jealously causes her to make a foolish mistake in crossing the glacier, ending in tragedy.

The conflicting emotions pull Margaret and Patrick in different directions.  Patrick is busy traveling to outlying clinics and totally absorbed in his research, while Margaret explores the beauty and complexity of Africa and its people. Their marriage weakens and moves ever closer to disaster.

Margaret goes to work for a local newspaper.  Excited by her new job, Margaret, in trying to learn about local customs, befriends some local residents, including a local girl who lives in poverty and was the victim of a vicious attack. Beyond understanding, Margaret finds herself drawn to the handsome Rafiq, a reporter whom she is working with at the newspaper. Government corruption and Rafiq's efforts to expose it are his undoing, and Margaret is nearly caught up in the aftermath of his disgrace and deportation.

Shreve is a master at characterization and plotting, and at the top of her form in this tale of Africa and the emotional turmoil of two people in a foreign setting, wondering if their love for each other can survive. Margaret has a surprising solution to that question.

This is my first Anita Shreve novel, but I can assure you, it will not be my last.  It was a mesmerizing story that I hated to see end.

The Book

Little, Brown and Company / Hachette
September 22, 2009
0316020702 / 978-0316020701
Fiction / General
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The Reviewer

Beverly J. Rowe
Reviewed 2009
NOTE: Reviewer Beverly J. Rowe is's "Babes to Teens" columnist, covering topics related to reading ideas for the youth in the family.
© 2009