Charlene, a 23-year-old from chilly Minnesota, volunteers to go
to Chad, Africa with the Peace Corps during the turbulent
1970s. Young and full of ideals, she hopes to ease the lives of
Chadians, but worries about what prompted her—inexperienced
and with few skills—to sign up to teach English for two years in
Africa. When she fails to connect with any of the other
volunteers or with Chadians, she feels isolated as she struggles
to communicate in French and tricky African languages.
Charlene is assigned to Moundou, Chad’s third largest city,
where she immerses herself in her teaching. She is horrified by
certain Chadian customs, particularly their treatment of women,
who are often considered lesser than any man. Her ex-lover
Madison has a far different experience in the country. He is
posted to the small remote village of Baibokoum, where he
comes to know Chadians in a much more intimate way,
engaging in tribal rituals and living with a Chadian wife.
As the months pass, both Charlene and Madison struggle with
the uncertainties of being young Americans in Chad during a
time when the government is under attack by rebels. They each
fantasize that they will be reunited once they finish their tour in
Chad and return to America.
Civil war breaks out, and the American ambassador orders all
Americans to evacuate. Charlene is baffled when Madison fails
to show up. All Americans are gathering in Chad’s major cities
to flee the country and Madison is a no-show. Where is he?
Why isn’t he here for the departure?
As the war worsens and the Americans load up a convoy of
trucks to escape into neighboring Cameroon, Charlene has to
decide if she can do anything to save the missing Madison
before it’s too late.
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