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Title: PIGMENT: The Limbs of the Mukuyu Tree
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Thriller/Social Issues
In this award-winning novel, young American Aliya Scott travels to Tanzania to help children with her condition. There, people without pigment melanin in their skin are called “zeru-zeru.” It means “ghost,” and they are believed to possess magical powers. When Aliya goes missing, her father sets out on a mission to find her. Will her reach her before it is too late?
LYRA AWARD Judge Comments:
“A disturbing subject delivered with great skill. In particular, the switching of timeline and character point of view is handled well; it would be an altogether different read if the story had unfolded chronologically; by introducing Aliya’s disappearance early in the plot, the reader is more deeply engaged with her journey, as if piecing it together along with her father. The back and forth timeline also adds to the layers of intrigue, twists, and deception, as secrets are revealed and the innocent become indistinguishable from the guilty. Reminiscent of John Le Carre’s The Constant Gardener.You know the ending can’t be a happy one but you also know you must keep reading to find out anyway.”
Superbly written, darkly intriguing and absolutely original, Pigment is sure to build an enthusiastic following for Topper and much interest in her future releases. It is recommended without reservation.
From the USA to Tanzania and Europe Topper takes us on an exhilarating journey that reflects the best and worst in human nature whilst Tanzania’s enduring sorrow and the plight of its Albino children proves ripe for the ensuing drama. With startling clarity, she pens an unforgettable narrative that weaves the darkest beliefs, corruption, and violence with an intensity that rarely falters. It’s a riveting tale that requires dexterity of thought as converging time lines come together. The events that led up to Aliya’s disappearance and Jalil’s pursuit of the truth which trawls the darker side of human nature and the beliefs that lead to the most appalling of atrocities. Set in the main against an ill-omened and daunting Tanzanian backdrop Topper captures a powerful sense of legitimacy and urgency that pervades her pages. It’s a harrowing read at times but she makes her points without too much breast-beating whilst the overarching social commentary is hard to ignore. Populated with a host of vividly drawn characters it’s not a tale for the faint-hearted with Topper notably retaining that often elusive balance between tension and suspense, as elusive clues are revealed. Not to be given freely, but designed to keep her readers guessing and rewarded with what proves to be a cracking denouement.
Reviewed By Jack Magnus for Readers’ Favorite
Pigment: The Limbs of the Mukuyu Tree is a literary fiction thriller written by Renee Topper. Aliyah Scott was born with albinism, and her life in the United States was made challenging by the genetic factor that made her skin white, unlike the rich chocolate tones of her mother and father. But her life was infinitely easier than that of her fellow albinos in parts of Africa, particularly in Tanzania, where witch doctors and hunters preyed upon albino children, and the law did little to protect them. Albinos were considered to be ghosts, not real, live people, so how then could their murderers be charged with killing something that wasn’t really alive? Children’s limbs were hacked off while they were alive; their blood drunk as a curative, and sometimes, it would be their own fathers, who would offer up the child for financial gain. Aliyah wanted to be part of the solution to this tragic situation. She felt an intimate involvement in the plights of the children she would be working with at Camp Kivuli. Delila, who had accepted her as a teacher sight unseen, had grave misgivings about Aliyah’s well-being while working in that country. Tanzania was the last place on earth for an American albino to be, no matter how good her intentions. All too soon, Aliyah disappeared, along with Keenan, her Irish friend. Her father, Jalil Scott, who was formerly in the Special Forces and familiar with Africa, if not Tanzania itself, was determined to find his daughter, even as he is told that it was too late, that she was gone. He would find her.
Renee Topper’s literary fiction thriller, Pigment: The Limbs of the Mukuyu Tree, is a gripping and suspenseful story that addresses the plight of albinos worldwide, but particularly in Africa. I was stunned by the ferocity and violence albino infants and children are subjected to in Tanzania, and found myself involved and engaged in Jalil’s quest to find his daughter. Pigment is a glorious read. The setting of the story is stunning. Topper brings the vast open savanna and the complexity of African cultures to the reader in each page of this original and compelling book. Jalil and his daughter are beautifully drawn characters with whom the reader can’t help but get involved. Following as Jalil gets ever closer, despite the obstructions placed before him at every step of the way, is inspirational and exciting. Pigment: The Limbs of the Mukuyu Tree is an extraordinary work about an ongoing societal tragedy. It’s most highly recommended.
Reviewed By Viga Boland for Readers’ Favorite
Diandra Forrest is a tall, absolutely stunning model, whose photo appears in the June 2017 National Geographic. What does Diandra have to do with this fictional book, Pigment, by Renee Topper? Everything and nothing. You see, Diandra is an African-American Albino, one of the luckier members of that group of people born with a genetic mutation that interferes with the amount of melanin in their bodies, leaving most of them with nearly translucent white skin, very weak eyes, white to pale orange hair and the lifetime risk of skin cancer from exposure to the sun. Why is Diandra one of the lucky ones? Unlike the thousands of albino children and adults abducted, mutilated and left to die in Tanzania, Africa, Diandra didn’t grow up there. Aliya, the female protagonist of Pigment is much like Diandra. She is a beautiful young woman who grows up in the the US. A newly graduated teacher, she heads for Tanzania on a mission: to help bring awareness to the horrible plight of albinos, to help in the fight against the crimes committed against them, and to assist young albino children to grow up loving and appreciating how special they are. It’s a noble mission fraught with danger, especially in Tanzania, but Aliya is obstinate and determined to be successful.
Does she succeed? Reading Pigment is a voyage on a stormy ocean that will leave readers unbelieving and breathless as they turn the pages. Pigment is impossible to put down. There is no wasted time, no unnecessary asides and no irrelevant action. The action never stops. Nor do the emotional highs and lows. When Aliya disappears, her retired military-trained father, Jalil, immediately flies to Tanzania and charges like a bull into a ring of deception. After all, when money is involved…and there’s lots of money involved in hunting down, abducting and murdering Albinos for their prized body parts and blood…cover ups are everywhere. Separating truth from lies, the good from the bad, and locating those responsible is near impossible. Danger and death is all around.
If, while reading Pigment, readers find themselves not wanting to believe the brutality depicted…and much of it is nauseating…reading the article “The Perils of Pale” in that issue of National Geographic mentioned above will lend credibility to the story Renee Topper has depicted so expertly in Pigment. Topper has created a fictional organization that works to help and protect Albino children, but there actually is such a group. You can find them, and donate to their cause at www.underthesamesun.com. This non-profit organization keeps detailed, gruesome records: “Since the 1990’s, in 27 African countries, at least 190 Albinos have been killed and 300 attacked, most since 2008. The epicenter of this crime wave, which includes the robbing of graves, is Tanzania.”
What is shocking to read, and Topper cites just such a situation in Pigment, is the number of fathers and relatives who will maim or slaughter an albino child not just for money…many Tanzanians are incredibly poor and hungry…but because of their belief in the teachings of the witch doctors. It’s hard to win a battle against such deeply ingrained beliefs. And it appears that it’s even harder to prosecute the criminals behind such financially lucrative operations. Read Pigment and prepare to weep over the travesties against humanity portrayed by Renee Topper. Moving and unforgettable.
Reviewed By Heather Osborne for Readers’ Favorite
Pigment: The Limbs of the Mukuyu Tree by Renee Topper is the harrowing tale of a young albino woman who travelled to Africa to better understand the strange cultural practices surrounding her condition. However, she enters a world far different than she imagined, where albinos are treated as ghosts, not even human, and their limbs and bodies are brutally harvested for use in ancient rituals. Aliya Scott wants nothing more than to help the children victimized by this horrible practice, but when she goes missing, her father launches a search, encountering things he had never expected in the quest to save his daughter before it’s too late.
Admittedly, I was not sure what to expect when I picked up this book. I was aware of these practices in African countries toward albino people, especially children, and that is what drew me to want to read this book. There are no pretenses made in this novel. Renee Topper presents a harsh reality of how albino people in Africa live in fear of being mutilated for witchcraft. I found both journeys—that of Aliya and her father—equally heartbreaking. I wish there had been more discussion of how other governments are working to help fight this atrocity—if at all. Overall, Pigment: The Limbs of the Mukuyu Tree by Renee Topper is worth a read, not just as a tragic story, but to inform the rest of the world of what is going on in these countries, and hopefully spur people on to take action to keep albinos safe from these antiquated practices.
Author – Renee Topper
Genre – Mystery, Suspense, Thriller, Political
193 Amazon Pages
Rating 4 stars out of 5 Posted 12/2/16Main Characters
Aliya Scott – African American albino from Los Angles who travels to Tanzania, Africa to work w/ albinos.
Jalil Scott. Aliya’s father- ex mercenary.
Kennon Dunnovan – Aliya’s Scottish friend and aid volunteer. He’s in love with her
Rhadi – Aliya’s African friend and aid volunteer. He’s in love with herBE WARNED! The actions graphically portrayed in this story, based on real incidents, are cruel, gruesome and disgusting. If you care to learn more about the actual plight of Tanzanian albinos in African, Google: Tanzania, Albino. The articles and pictures there will awaken you to the plight of people who are ‘different’ in the midst of superstitious, ignorant tribal natives directed by witchdoctors to hunt and dismember albinos. Their body parts and skin are sold to be used as talismans and magical potions. The practice is real and elevated to rampant in 2005. Approximately one in fifteen hundred Tanzanians born are albino and at risk of being butchered piecemeal or murdered.Pigment is a beautiful telling of an ugly, insidious practice born out of ignorance and incredible cruelty.
The brutality described is horrific: rape, butchering and skinning albinos including young children, burning innocent live people to death.Aliya arrives in Tanzania to work with orphaned albino children. Two young men are in love with her but she rejects both to concentrate on her work with the people she came to help.
There is a diabolical plot underway to steal Aliya because she is an albino. Local corrupt politicians turn a blind eye to the plight of albinos because they are bribed.
When Aliya disappears, her father, Jalil flies to Africa to rescue her.
The story is full of action and suspense but is difficult to read because of the subject matter.The story is overshadowed by poor editing, not terrible, with missing, extra, misspelled and wrong words.
Character development and general location details are sparse.
Research is evident in the plight of the albinos but then falls short when a Glock handgun is described as an antique. Glock began manufacturing semiautomatic handguns in 1982. Thirty-four years does not make one an antique.
The plot is frightening, loathsome and ugly but forms an incredible story that needs to be told.
Dialog spoken and written in French is followed by the English translation and is clumsy and boring. It only serves to slow the story and is a major distraction.I highly recommend this story if you have the intestinal fortitude to finish it.This review was provided in exchange for a free book.
Vigilant Reader Book Reviews.