I enjoy reading memoirs from time to time. It’s a nice break from the norm and, typically, the person writing the memoir has had an eventful, if not sad, life story to tell. The first memoir I wrote about was A Girl Named Zippy, which was a wonderful story of growing up in the Midwest. Although not everything smelled of roses for Zippy, her memoir is full of humor and is heartwarming. I read The Glass Castle shortly thereafter. Although Jeannette Wall’s life had a good deal of hardship, there was a touch of humor to it. You could tell that she didn’t take herself terribly seriously. The other memoirs I’ve read and reviewed here are more brooding, such as The Mistress’s Daughter and Without a Map. They may not have had the humor of the others, but they provided insight and were cathartic for the author. First Comes Love, Then Comes Malaria most definitely falls into the first category. Eve Brown-Waite tells of her struggle to marry the man of her dreams while taking a bite out of third world hardship is a hilarious, delightful, and hopeful read.
As a young adult, Eve seemed to live her life based upon declarations she had made. At one point she announced that she would join the Peace Corps. It’s not that she didn’t think that the Peace Corps performed a great deal of good work, but she ultimately makes the appointment to see the recruiter because she said that she was going to join and she didn’t want to look like a wimp. What she doesn’t foresee is that she would fall in love with her recruiter and not want to leave him for two years. The kicker is that it would be darn difficult to impress John, the Peace Corps poster boy, by chickening out of what brought them together in the first place. Besides, being clingy would be a sure way to lose him. So, off to Ecuador she went full of misgivings about her future with John. The road to destiny was a rough one, which the author mostly remembers with a smile. There would be no memoir had they not ended up together, but the best part is the way that Eve writes about herself. She is self-deprecating and continually second guesses herself, but the reader is able to catch of glimpse of the woman John met. We knew that he wouldn’t be able to live without her, either. What other woman would pack up and move with him to perhaps the most desolate and unsafe part of Uganda? While there, Eve is secure in her relationship with her husband, but getting a handle on life in Africa provided a new sort of insecurity. She isn’t a natural housewife, but she doesn’t believe that she’ll be strictly a housewife for long. Her background in AIDS prevention in the United States was a gift waiting to be opened in Uganda, or so she believed. The people and organizations in Uganda didn’t see her as the gallant knight riding in with the answers she needed. What she found out that for the most part she was in Uganda to learn, not to teach.
Throughout this memoir, Eve’s style and sense of humor made exploring some less than exotic regions meaningful. She clearly illustrated that people might live and play within very different cultures, but that humans were more alike than different, be they from South America, North America, or Africa. There is, however, one notable exception (full disclosure – Literate Housewife is nearly 75% Dutch):
“I’d come to prefer the pilots who were Dutch, like Coby. She was competent and full of common sense, which I’d come to think of as a Dutch trait.” ~ pg. 148
“I envied Coby’s lean, athletic body and had begun to think of her natural athleticism as another Dutch trait. Right up there with cheery competence and a fondness for cheese.” ~ pg. 162
In these two sections, she quite eloquently said what Egbert Dodde, my wise yet not quite so eloquent grandfather has taught me since birth:
“If you ain’t Dutch, you ain’t much.”
He also often said that there were two types of people in this world: Doddes and those who only wish they could be Doddes – but that’s a whole other story. Now that I think about it, I don’t remember the author mentioning anything about how naturally modest and humble the Dutch are. That’s curious. I’m sure it’s in there some where…
In all seriousness, I do have a fondness for cheese. Can you tell that I had so much fun with this memoir?
In First Comes Love, Then Comes Malaria, Eve Brown-Waite shares about life and her experiences in other countries with humor and honesty. Never once does she get preachy or self-righteous. She doesn’t paint Peace Corps volunteers or others from the outside working in the Third World amazingly selfless heroes or holier than thou saints. They are human beings who simply feel called to do what they do, no differently than the teacher, dentist, or computer programmer next door. Nor does she write about those living in the Third World as simply victims of tyrannical governments or uncivilized heathens. Everyone was well-rounded and flawed. No one saved anyone, yet everyone saved each other. Eve was leading the charge and I loved her for it. You will, too. This is a perfect memoir to read this summer.
To read this memoir, click here.