Throwback Thursday: The Existence of Pity by Jeannie Zokan


Throwback Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by Renee at It’s Book Talk. It’s designed as an opportunity to share old favourites as well as books that we’ve finally got around to reading that were published over a year ago. If you decide to take part, please link back to It’s Book Talk.

Today I’m reviewing another book that has been in my TBR pile for way too long – The Existence of Pity by Jeannie Zokan. I want to thank Jeannie for her patience in waiting so long for my review.

TheExistenceofPityAbout the Book

Growing up in a lush valley in the Andes mountains, sixteen-year-old Josie Wales is mostly isolated from the turbulence brewing in 1976 Colombia. As the daughter of missionaries, Josie feels torn between their beliefs and the need to choose for herself. She soon begins to hide things from her parents, like her new boyfriend, her trips into the city, and her explorations into different religions. Josie eventually discovers her parents’ secrets are far more insidious. When she attempts to unravel the web of lies surrounding her family, each thread stretches to its breaking point. Josie tries to save her family, but what happens if they don’t want to be saved?

Click here to view a selection of photographs Jeannie has taken of places that feature in the book alongside some short excerpts from The Existence of Pity.

To view the book trailer, click here

Format: eBook (240 pp.)                 Publisher: Red Adept Publishing
Published: 14th November 2016   Genre: Contemporary Fiction, YA

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*links provided for convenience, not as part of any affiliate programme

Find The Existence of Pity on Goodreads

My Review

The Existence of Pity is a really interesting coming-of-age story set in the fascinating location of Cali, a city in Colombia.   I loved the insight the novel gives into the culture and landscape of Colombia – in fact, there could have been more of that for me. The picture of the missionary community, largely cut off from the indigenous population, with few contacts with the local people aside from those working as their maids, I found somewhat depressing.  However, I can appreciate that Colombia can be a dangerous place and that there was an element of personal safety considerations in that arrangement. Josie, the central character, is the one member of her family who seems to make an effort to connect with and absorb the atmosphere of the country and its people.

‘Cali was full of smells, each connected to a memory. Some, like the burning of sugar cane, reminded me of good-byes. The smell of the city – with its diesel fuel, cigarettes, and occasional aromas of cologne and bursts of air conditioning – was the smell of excitement and possibilities. The mountains’ mix of cool fresh air, rain, and coffee was sheer beauty. But the best smell, the one I knew even with my eyes closed, was our street. The smoky smell of the corner restaurant lingered among the fragrance of fruit trees, flowers and mown grass.’

Josie’s parents are Baptist missionaries and I did struggle with their certainty that their beliefs are ‘right’ and the people of Colombia need to be persuaded to jettison their own religious beliefs, to ‘see the light’ as it were. So I could really understand and appreciate Josie’s desire to explore other beliefs. I found her parents’ intolerance of her spiritual exploration and their unwillingness to believe her side of events that take place later in the novel quite at odds with their professed Christian spirit. Their hypocrisy, given what we learn as the novel progresses, is quite breathtaking too. And I really hated their treatment of their Colombian maid, Blanca.  I think you can tell from this that the author definitely succeeded in engaging me in the story!

I feel The Existence of Pity would make a perfect YA book as I think readers younger than myself might be able to identify better with Josie’s (to me, superficial) pre-occupations with which boys to date: ‘Tom was a good guy, and I really liked him, but did I like him enough to overlook things like his stupid hat.’ However, I really liked that Josie found a few people, include some Colombians, who were able to support her in a way her parents seemed unable to do.

The description of the book in the blurb – ‘a story of flawed characters told with heart and depth against the beautiful backdrop of Colombia’ – perfectly sums up this engaging, interesting novel.

I received a review copy courtesy of the author and publishers, Red Adept Publishing, in return for an honest and unbiased review.

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In three words: Emotional, coming-of-age, thoughtful

Try something similar…A Reluctant Warrior by Kelly Brooke Nicholls (click here to read my review)

JeannieZokanAbout the Author

Jeannie Zokan grew up in Colombia, South America, where she read almost every book in the American school she attended. Her love of books led her to study Library Science at Baylor University then to attend The George Washington University in DC. When the chance came to head south, she took her motorcycle to Florida’s Gulf Coast to write stories for the local newspaper. She now lives ten minutes from the beach with her husband, two teenage daughters, and three pets, all of whom keep her inspired and just a little frantic. She enjoys aerial yoga, tennis, and holding NICU babies as a volunteer. But there’s always writing. Writing to relive, writing to understand, writing to remember, writing to renew.

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