Lydia Gibbs is the daughter of a mild-mannered pastor and his wife. As such, she feels that she is type-cast by her classmates as the goody-two-shoes kind of girl. Lydia’s passion, however, is what drives her. Her passion is photography. She wants to work for National Geographic and take pictures that will make global impact. The summer she graduates from high school, Lydia finds herself in a dead-end job but she’s trying to save money to buy a good camera. Meanwhile, in Tanzania, a former classmate of Pastor Gibb is in a financial bind. Paul is a PH (short for professional hunter), having left his seminary days far behind him. He needs a photographer to film his safaris in order to gain rich clients and thus keep Blue Nile Resort and Safaris in business. Things only go from bad to worse when the man from the Wildlife Division is arrives to audit the safaris, especially since it is Paul’s own son Caleb who shows up. Needless to say things are not good between the two and haven’t been. Paul contacts Pastor Gibb and asks if Lydia might want to come to Tanzania and shoot safari photos – of course he can’t afford to pay her but the experience should be worth something. Lydia is thrilled to accept the offer in spite of her parents misgivings. Even better the congregation pulls together to provide camera and equipment for Lydia.
In Tanzania, Lydia faces the real world for the first time. From a scare at the airport upon her arrival, to being used as bait for the gentlemen clients, to ultimately facing the gritty reality of dying animals – even endangered ones – Lydia finds her strength and makes the most of the situation going so far as to having feelings for Caleb.
Rhinoceros Summer is a real world book that sheds light on the atrocities of killing animals just for their trophies (tusks, antlers, heads, etc). The culture of the Tanzanians is brought to the fore as rich Westerners demand the amenities of home while stalking their prey. Through it all is the coming-of-age of a young girl brought up in the sheltered culture of her religion.
I immensely enjoyed this book. After the first several chapters I found I couldn’t put it down. When I reached the conclusion, I found I wanted to know more about these well-developed characters. I sincerely hope Ms. Thornton is writing a sequel.
Word of caution: the safari scenes where the animals are hunted can be brutal.