STARRED REVIEW
December 02, 2014

The dark reality of diamonds

By Michael Williams

The diamond mines of Marange in Zimbabwe serve as the setting for this portrait of a family in turmoil, which focuses on a tenacious 15-year-old boy named Patson Moyo. Patson and his little sister, Grace, adore their father, a man who has dedicated his life to teaching. But it is their new stepmother, known simply as “the Wife,” who compels her husband to leave his home and seek wealth by moving to Marange, where her brother James is involved in mining. In Marange, she claims, there are “diamonds for everyone.”

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The diamond mines of Marange in Zimbabwe serve as the setting for this portrait of a family in turmoil, which focuses on a tenacious 15-year-old boy named Patson Moyo. Patson and his little sister, Grace, adore their father, a man who has dedicated his life to teaching. But it is their new stepmother, known simply as “the Wife,” who compels her husband to leave his home and seek wealth by moving to Marange, where her brother James is involved in mining. In Marange, she claims, there are “diamonds for everyone.”

“I had never met Uncle James, but I knew I wouldn’t like him,” reflects Patson before the family sets off on their journey. From the outset, it is clear they have entered a treacherous world. Their driver will not even take them all the way to Marange for fear of danger on the roads. The school Patson’s father hopes to work at has closed; the government housing is an empty promise.

Patson and his father go to work in the mines, with Patson becoming part of a syndicate of teen miners who hope to pool their profits to get a chance at a better life—and find that one priceless stone. But when government soldiers arrive to put an end to the “diamond rush,” Patson’s world is shattered.

Michael Williams, who has written young adult novels such as Crocodile Burning and Now Is the Time for Running, is also the managing director of Cape Town Opera in South Africa. He brings a strong sense of place and authenticity to this gripping look into events that took place after the discovery of diamonds in Zimbabwe in 2006.

 

Deborah Hopkinson lives near Portland, Oregon. Her most recent book for young readers is The Great Trouble.

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Diamond Boy

Diamond Boy

By Michael Williams
Little, Brown
ISBN 9780316320696

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