Fam­ily drama and duty

Sunday Tribune - - BOOKS -

Blood Money By Jo­han Raath Delta Pub­lish­ers

THIS riv­et­ing ac­count sheds light on the re­al­i­ties of work­ing in a wartorn coun­try and is de­scribed as the first book on the war in Iraq writ­ten by a South African.

Raath and a se­cu­rity team were es­cort­ing Amer­i­can en­gi­neers to a power plant south of Bagh­dad when they were am­bushed. He had ar­rived in Iraq only two weeks be­fore and his bap­tism of fire was a small taste of what was to come over the next 13 years he would spend in the war-torn coun­try.

His mis­sion? “Not to wage war, but to pro­tect lives.”

Raath acted as a body­guard for VIPS and, more of­ten, en­gi­neers who were in­volved in con­struc­tion projects to re­build the coun­try after the 2003 war. His phys­i­cal and men­tal en­durance were tested to the limit in his ef­forts to safe­guard con­struc­tion sites that were reg­u­larly sub­jected to mor­tar and sui­cide at­tacks. Key to his survival was his train­ing as a spe­cial forces op­er­a­tor, or recce.

Work­ing in places called the Tri­an­gle of Death and driv­ing on the Hell Run, Raath de­scribes a host of hair-rais­ing ex­pe­ri­ences. A trained com­bat medic, he also helped to save peo­ple’s lives after two sui­cide bomb at­tacks.

This is a grip­ping, grisly and highly in­for­ma­tive ac­count of the tough life and of­ten thank­less job of a pri­vate mil­i­tary con­trac­tor.

IT’S post-in­de­pen­dence Zim­babwe and an at­mos­phere of nos­tal­gia hangs over much of Harare’s re­main­ing white com­mu­nity.

Hay­den East­wood grows up in a fam­ily that sets it­self apart, dis­tin­guish­ing them­selves from Rhodie-rhodies through their pol­i­tics: left is good; right is bad.

Within the fam­ily’s free-an­deasy ap­proach to life, Hay­den and his younger brother, Dan, make a pact to never grow up, to play hide-and-seek and build forts for­ever, and ig­nore girls.

But as the chem­i­cals of ado­les­cence be­gin to stir, their child­hood pact starts to un­ravel. And as Sarah en­ters their lives, the broth­ers find them­selves em­broiled in an un­spo­ken love tri­an­gle. While Sarah and Hay­den spend in­creas­ing amounts of time to­gether, Dan is left to deal with feel­ings of re­jec­tion and the bur­den of hid­den pas­sion, and the demise of a silly prom­ise brings with it a wave of destruc­tion.

This tender ac­count is laced with equal amounts of hu­mour, anger and sad­ness. It is a beau­ti­fully writ­ten tale of a fam­ily in crisis and an ex­plo­ration of how we only aban­don the lies we tell our­selves when we have no other op­tion. – Orielle Berry

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