Two Years of Wonder
Neill recounts his years of volunteering with HIV/AIDS afflicted children, the suffering they endured, and the resilience these brave children showed despite unimaginable pain and loss. Moreover, he shares that although seeing the suffering first hand led to a major depressive episode and hospitalization, he ultimately found hope and healing.
Where should I begin? While this is billed as a memoir that Neill has written documenting his journey to recovery from being ready to kill himself to finding a path forwards, this is far more than that. I actually found that quite a minor part of the book – instead I was equally entranced and horrified by the stories of the African orphans living in Rainbow who live with being HIV+. Ted’s time there included the introduction of antiretrovirals (ART) and the lengthening of the children’s lives – so that they could live into adulthood. That of course is a very positive outcome, but not available for all children because it is so expensive and there are so many affected by this insidious disease.
I fully admit that I got confused in some parts of the different children’s stories. The way Ted characterised Oliver in his red beanie for example made him stick in my mind, but other children got mixed up, particularly as they often seemed to be included in the text in a random order. It is highly possible I missed the significance of the order since I was dipping into and out of this book.
What I would have liked was an index of the different languages spoken in Africa and their associated /Tribes/. Also, because I’m quite literal in the way that I read words, it took me a while to work out that the children spoke of HIV in a phonetic manner. So I could have also done with a glossary of those words.
This is strictly non-fiction, so I don’t need to rate it. But I feel like this book was really well thought-out by an author who was really aware of what he was writing and how he was writing in. Kudos to you, Ted (I hope you don’t mind me using your first name, but I really feel like I’ve gotten to know you). Thank you for sharing your story, and the stories of the children you worked with.