“Rubbing Stones” by Nancy Burkey

In “Rubbing Stones,” two seemingly separate stories converge, with both uplifting and tragic results. Jane is an American psychiatrist whose teenage son has gotten into trouble with the law. Meanwhile, Katura is a teenage girl from Botswana, whose older brother has also gotten into what turns out to be much more serious trouble with the law in Zimbabwe. Jane takes her family to volunteer at a clinic in Botswana as a way to expose her sons to the realities of life outside of their privileged California experience, only to find themselves held hostage in an attempt to free Katura’s brother. The captives must figure out how to make it out of the situation alive, and end up gaining understanding of their captors’ lives in the process.

Taking the troubled-American-family narrative and transplanting it to Africa adds another level of complexity to what could otherwise be a fairly typical story, and cutting back and forth between the two sets of characters, while occasionally chaotic, demonstrates how family dynamics are universal, regardless of race or culture. The tension ratchets up continuously as the captives make repeated plans to escape, any of which *could* work, but only one of which will. A good quick read for those looking to combine the basic elements of “women’s fiction” with the travel and thriller genres.

My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing a review copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

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