Monday, May 13, 2013

Review: The Girl Who Married An Eagle by Tamar Myers

In The Girl Who Married An Eagle, Tamar Myers draws on her childhood lived in the Belgian Congo for this final book in her Belgian Congo series. Born to missionaries, the author lived in the Belgian Congo and that is also the setting for this book with the main character, Julie, arriving in the Congo from Ohio to start her work at the mission. While there, she leads a school for girls and meets Buakane who has recently been sold by her parents to Chief Eagle for a sum of goats and chickens - she will be the Chief's 23rd wife. Julie tries to save Buakane from this fate but that is no easy feat.

Julie is enthralled when she learns about the missions at her church in Ohio and in a step of rebelliousness, more than selflessness, she heads to the Congo. Shortly after arriving, she meets young Clementine, a precocious young girl who was born to the children on missionaries in the Congo. She is both Julie's guide to life in the village and her charge - she is soon tasked with keeping Clementine under control. Meanwhile Buakane has eavesdropped on her parent's conversation and learned that they plan to sell her to Chief Eagle for a sum of goats and chickens. Buakane is a beautiful young girl (barely a teen) and will become the 23rd wife of Chief Eagle. Some of the Chief's wives have met with terrible fortunes so Buakane is justifiably nervous about this deal struck by her parents. Furthermore, the last wife of a Chief gets buried alive with the Chief when he dies and Buakane fears she could meet that fate. The story alternates between Buakane's story and that of Clementine who we soon learn has suffered quite a bit for a young girl. The story of the Belgian Congo and the customs of colonialism and tribal culture are weaved throughout as Julie learns about her new home.

My Thoughts
Although this is the final book in the author's Belgian Congo series, it ably stands on its own.  I had not read the previous three books and did not feel like I had missed anything - I believe the setting of the Congo is what unifies the series but the characters are unique to each book. The book is billed as a mystery but I found it light on mystery. In my opinion, it is much more a cultural anthropology set in a novel. I loved reading about the Congo and the customs of the tribal culture. Novels are often my favorite way of discovering new cultures or times in history - this book is especially good in that department because, although not non-fiction, the author writes from her own personal experience so there is authenticity to her setting.

This book definitely got me thinking about the exploitation of women in some third world nations and in certain cultures. Without much of a thought, Buakane's parents sold her off to the Chief knowing that she would be buried alive with him if he died while she was still his most recent wife. By selling her, they guaranteed their own security and also Buakane's as she would be fed and cared for as the wife of the Chief. It struck me that these are the types of decisions some people must make and how those circumstances doom many women to arranged marriages where they are given few choices and even put into danger.  So, although light on mystery, this books definitely gave me something to think about and, through and enjoyable story, allowed me to learn about life in a Belgian mission in the 1950's. It was a great way to spend a long flight.

I review this book as part of the TLC Book Tour - you can see other reviews on the tour schedule.


  1. This sounds like a fascinating book. The customs of some cultures leave me horrified and numb with sadness. I can't wrap my mind around burning a chief's living wife along with his dead body.

  2. I'm the same way in that "novels are often my favorite way of discovering new cultures or times in history." I really love novels like this that not only introduce me to new cultures or times in history, but get me thinking about heavier topics, such as female exploitation.

    Thanks for being on the tour!

  3. I enjoy novels that are authentic because the authors are writing about what they know and have experienced. This was a first class novel in many ways, though there wasn't a mystery as such to be solved, I agree. Have you read any of the books in Tamar Myers' Den of Antiquity mystery series ? They are laugh out loud funny, with lots of puns and word plays and quirky characters.