Peter Clenott is a graduate of Bowdoin College and hails from Portland, Maine. He is the author of the archaeological adventure Hunting the King and currently has three children and lives in Haverhill.
Chiku Flynn wasn’t raised to be a human. Born in Maiko National Park in the Congolese rain forest, Chiku spent the first eleven years of her life as part of an experiment conducted by her parents.
Primatologists Seth Flynn and Samantha Burchill loved their daughter but had no difficulty releasing her into the wild to be studied alongside the chimpanzees of Pan-Dora Island. Impulsive and spontaneous, Chiku proved an apt student, ultimately surpassing her parents in her ability to mingle and communicate with the forest chimpanzees. Pan, the primary male. Scallion, Chiku’s birth mate. Scopes, the provocateur. She plays with them, fashions tools with them, sleeps in their nests, hunts and forages. For Chiku the aboriginal, the primitive, is normal. Then just after her eleventh birthday, everything changes. Chiku witnesses the horrifying death of her mother, pulled out of their boat by a Mamba River crocodile, and her father at last sends her ‘home’ to the United States and to a normal teenager’s life.
The problem is, Chiku can’t adapt. Five years and a dozen schools can’t bring her in line. Therapists and psychiatrists can’t figure her out. The pills, when she decides to take them, have no effect. She prefers rolling her own joints and risking life and limb on crazy urban stunts on her roller blades. She is the proverbial wild child, obstinate, defiant, and hopeless. There is a dark side to her past that no one can penetrate. Life is without direction or goal. It is simply experienced and often with catastrophic results. Then Seth Flynn disappears, the chimpanzees he has been studying begin invading the local human settlement, and Chiku’s life is thrown onto a second life-altering course, only this time she is going back to Africa, back to the jungle, where she can put to profound use the one great skill she has: she can communicate with her father’s abandoned chimpanzees using sign language.
The rain forest is in turmoil when Chiku arrives with her older half-sister Cary, a journalist who does not like or trust her defiant sibling. Civil War has led to a massing of refugees on the outskirts of the national park. Poachers are hunting and killing chimpanzees for food or sale. Mining interests and timber companies want to displace the chimpanzees for their own profit. Chiku’s father may well have been a victim of their desires. With the human world threatening to destroy the rain forest and turn Seth Flynn’s chimpanzees into something they have never been, Chiku must step in and reclaim her life and that of the beings she grew up loving.
Pan-Dora Island is sixteen-year-old Chiku Flynn’s line in the sand. She is naïve and fearless, guts and fists rather than charm and make-up, a tomboy growing fast into womanhood. The lives of the chimpanzees and the safety of the refugees depend upon her. The affections of three young men hang upon her adolescent desires: 17-year old Tim Hayfield, the deaf son of missionaries; Mark Forsberg, the ‘older man’, the PhD candidate studying chimpanzees; Darius Ojukwu, the Hutu teenager conscripted into the wars as a twelve-year-old boy. Chiku is the focus of bispecies attention and the target of assassins intent on finishing their work. Bruised and jaded by life before she has tasted her first kiss, Chiku Flynn is not a girl to mess with. Yet, if anyone knows anything about love and true devotion, it is Chiku Flynn.