Latest Book Summary & Questions
In May, we read a memoir book from Zimbabwe called, The Last Resort (view on Amazon).
The majority of the book club discussion occurs in our online book club where we post 2 questions a day for 5 days at the end of the month. However, we also welcome discussion online here.
For reference, we've included a summary of the book below as well as all of the questions used for discussion. Beth & Mia alternate the choice of country & write up of the book summary. They each contribute approximately half of the discussion questions.
BOOK SUMMARY (WRITTEN BY MIA)
Born & raised in Zimbabwe, Douglas Rogers is the son of white farmers during the country’s long & tense transition from postcolonial rule. He rejected life as a Zimbabwean & a perceived dull future that would befall him if he stayed. He traded for a life full of adventure & excitement in Europe & the United States as a journalist & travel writer. But everything changed when Zimbabwe’s president, Robert Mugabe launched his violent program to reclaim white-owned land, land owned for generations by white farmers. His parents (Lyn & Ros) refused to leave their homeland & Drifters, their game farm & backpacker lodge in the eastern mountains of Zimbabwe which was one of the most popular budget resorts in the country. With their home & resort under siege, their friends & neighbors expelled, assaulted or arrested, their lives in peril became the new normal. But instead of leaving, as their son begs them to do, they decide to dig in their heels & stay.
When Douglas returns to the country of his birth "under the convenience of another", he finds his home transformed into a place very different: marijuana has replaced maize in the fields; prostitutes (prossies) have replaced the backpackers as guests; & soldiers, spies, & teenage diamond dealers hang out at the resort bar. Douglas’s parents—with the assistance of friends, farm workers, lodge guests & residents along with black political dissidents & white refugee farmers—continue to trudge on hoping for the best. Even when there is no hope in sight, they turn their resort into a safe house for politically-hunted fugitives. Douglas sees his parents with new eyes: unbowed, with their purpose renewed & at times; heroic. In the process, he learns that the "big story" he chased as a journalist was happening in his own backyard.
The story offers many colorful characters & stories, & brings us on a roller coaster ride of laughter, despair, anxiety, injustice & hope. The lines are consistently blurred with who to trust or not in a volatile political crisis. In the climactic ending, it is Tendai, who in his calm manner, saves Ros, Lyn & the resort from destruction.
- John Agoneka (aka John Orange): Gardner turned tour guide at Drifters.
- Tendai Biti: A deep-voiced bachelor who took over the running the resort from the Rogers. Relative of the Top Man. Saved the Rogers & the resort at the end of the memoir.
- The Commissar: The Political Commissar who was living in the farmhouse he appropriated from the Rogers' neighbor. Lyn gave him rides when he was hitchhiking & Douglas ends up picking his brain for information. Very educated on the Zimbabwean history of his ancestors & white colonists.
- Mienkie de Klerk: White farmer friend of the Rogers who got pushed off her farm & forced to live/hide at Drifters. Married to Piet.
- Piet de Klerk (aka Oom Piet): White farmer friend of the Rogers who got pushed off his farm & forced to live/hide at Drifters. Piet wanted to "get his cattle back". Piet was related to F.W. de Klerk, the last white President of apartheid South Africa. Married to Mienkie.
- Brian James: White farmer friend of the Rogers who lost his chicken farm in the early days of the land invasion. Became a prominent member of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) fighting against the political party currently ruling Zimbabwe. Husband of Sheelagh. Became Mayor of Mutare.
- Sheelagh James: White farmer friend of the Rogers who lost her chicken farm in the early days of the land invasion. Wife of Brian.
- Dawson Jombe: Turned Drifters into a "black joint" & brothel. Leased the lodge from Ros & Lyn. Was the very first black resident at Drifters.
- Miss Moneypenny (aka Madame Bureau de Change & "the National Treasure"): Money dealer. Middle-aged redhead who loved to golf.
- (President) Robert Mugabe: Current President of Zimbabwe. Leader of the Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF). Wanted the white Zimbabweans to "return back to the UK" & give up their land to black settlers/farmers. Lashed out at the British, white/black Zimbabweans & members of the opposing political party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) including Morgan Tsvangirai, their leader.
- John Muranda (aka John Old): Employee at Drifters. chef, barman & Lyn’s right hand man. Husband of Naomi.
- Naomi Muranda (aka Mrs. John): Employee at Drifters. Smoked pot to "help" her high blood pressure.
- Douglas Rogers: Author of the memoir. Left Zimbabwe in pursuit of a career in journalism in the UK & US. Returns to his homeland when political upheaval threatens his family’s resort. His ancestors had been settled 350 years in Africa.
- Grace Rogers: Douglas’s wife. A New Jersey girl.
- Lyn Rogers: Douglas’ aging father who is a "romantic dreamer" in a fight to defend his right to be Zimbabwean. Husband of Rosalind. Co-owner of Drifters, a thriving Zimbabwean game resort & refuge in Mutare.
- Rosalind Rogers (aka Ros): Douglas’ aging, but stoic mother who is a "rooted realist" fighting for her right to be Zimbawean. Wife of Lyn. Co-owner of Drifters, a thriving Zimbabwean game resort & refuge in Mutare.
- Walter Sebenze: A Zimbabwe National Army sergeant. Told Douglas the story of how he became a child soldier & gained his position in the military. Vowed to protect Lyn & Ros.
- The Top Man (aka the Minister): The most senior government minister in the Rogers' area. In charge of the Central Intelligence Organization, secret police & land reform program. After the President, the most powerful man in the country.
- Morgan Tsvangirai: Former Prime Minister of Zimbabwe. Leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in opposition to Mugabe & the Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF).
Book Club Questions
- Mia: On a scale of 1-10 did you like this book? Why or why not?
- Beth: What initially drew you to (or turned you off from) the book solely based upon the cover & description? If you read the book, were your initial thoughts correct?
- Mia: Did you get a strong feeling for Zimbabwe while reading the descriptions? Were you transported by the writing?
- Beth: Were you aware of the political situation in Zimbabwe? If so, how did your thoughts change after reading the memoir?
- Mia: How do you view Lyn & Ros, the owners of the resort? Stubborn, stoic, brave, brazy? Explain.
- Beth: What were some of the funniest or most shocking moments you remember from the book? Why did they stay with you?
- Beth: The way a non-fiction book is written can impact your enjoyment & understanding. Was this book written in a way that was easily accessible?
- Mia: How did you feel when one of the displaced farmers mentioned that forgiveness was paramount in being able to move on? Would you be able to forgive if your home was taken over?
- Mia: Was your primary feeling when reading this memoir one of hope or despair at the political mess of Zimbabwe? What did this book make you feel?
- Mia: What is the lesson learned from this book?
- Beth: Do memoirs like these make you curious what has happened since the book was published? Did you look up current info about Zimbabwe, the resort or the Rogers?