the boy who stole the leopard’s spots
Author: Tamar Myers
Publisher: William Morrow
An Imprint of Harper Collins Publishers
“We laugh, we cry,” has more meaning than a simple hello or good bye. It infers that we are friends, we understand each other and sometimes we share a laugh and sometimes we a share sorrow.
Ms Myers takes us on a journey in the “boy who stole the leopard’s spots”. There are actually two stories. The first determines the second. The second solves the first. In the prologue, we learn from the chief, “My son, do not ask the same of our stories as the white man demands of his own tales. Truth and information need not be the same thing.” As you drift around the town of Belle Vue, we learn the paradox of this statement made in 1935.
Set in the Belgian Congo of 1935 and 1955 – 58, we meet the chief who must set out to kill the leopard, the true king of the jungle. The leopard is not lazy like the lion. He does not have to worry about his fur caught in the trees or tall weeds. He hunts for himself. The leopard stands tall and fearless among man. There in lies the start of our tale.
Any tale or story is only as good as the characters involved. Ms Myers has assembled a list of characters that enlighten the tale. They make you laugh, they make you cry, they make you shake her head in debriefs, but they enlighten you to the customs and ways of the natives of Belgian Congo. She shows how the Africans accepted us without changing us, while we tried to change them to our ways, our religions.
The Chief: he is an honorable person, respected member of the tribe.
The Twins: Chigger Mite and Jonathan Pimple sons of the Chief, born when superstition demand that one must die.
The Catholic priests: Father Reutner a teacher, priest and ready for retirement governed by the church. Monsignor Clemente was raised in the Belgian Congo; he left at the age of sixteen only to return to Belle Vue in 1958.
Amanda the Baptist missionary: Amanda is known as Mamu Ugly Eyes. She is young, she signed up Africa to do missionary work because of drinking, a car wreck and with the hope of becoming a better person. She is in charge of the missionary retreat. She has eyes for Pierre Jardin, the Police Chief Captain.
Pierre Jardin, the Police Chief Captain. He must solve the mystery.
The local Witch doctor: Their Death, he is a witch doctor, he is Catholic. He has two wives and six children.
Cripple, first wife to Their Death. She is forty years old and having her first child. She is far wiser than anyone in Belle Vue. She is a devote heathen.
Madame Cabochon: the femme fatale of Belle Vue. She was just as capable of killing a green mamba as she was at taming a male, except for her husband.
And last but not least are the Green Mamba snake and the goat he swallowed. Yes, a snake can be big enough to swallow a goat, but he has to be hungry.
A horrendous storm divides not only Belle Vue, but also the citizens of this community when the middle of the bridge is taken out by a tree from the Island of the Seven Ghost Sisters.
Ms Myers has the ability to bring this all together. After the last page is read, the mystery is solved and the bridge is rebuild, you find a love for the land, a love for the people, and an understanding that “we laugh, we cry” in the tale of “the boy who stole the leopard’s spots” offers no apologies for the Tribes of the Congo believes, only the hope that we accept them as they accept us.