Monday, 10 July 2017

The Existence of Pity

Hello, it's Heather! Many thanks to the author for sending this to us for an honest review. This made a very pleasant summer read that I'd definitely encourage others to look at.


Author: Jeannie Zokan
Published: October 2016
Publisher: Red Adept Publishing
Length: 256 pages

Brief description (from Amazon)

Growing up in a lush valley in the Andes mountains, sixteen-year-old Josie Wales is mostly isolated from the turbulence brewing in 1976 Colombia. As the daughter of missionaries, Josie feels torn between their beliefs and the need to choose for herself. She soon begins to hide things from her parents, like her new boyfriend and her explorations into different religions. Josie eventually discovers her parents’ secrets are far more insidious. When she attempts to unravel the web of lies surrounding her family, each thread stretches to its breaking point. Josie tries to save her family, but what happens if they don’t want to be saved? The Existence of Pity is a story of flawed characters told with heart and depth against the beautiful backdrop of Colombia. (


This novel is honestly as sweet as apple pie, I adored reading it for a bit of escapism. It’s told from the perspective of Josie, who is growing up in Cali, Columbia, with her Baptist Missionary family. Overshadowed by her brother Aaron who deceives his parents into believing him to be innocent in every way, Josie starts to question her religion and has to battle between staying true to herself or making her family happy.

The start of the book reveals a massive plot spoiler, which I’d have been tempted to leave out, however I actually have to commend the author for doing it as I was in a state of anticipation throughout. It means you progress through the novel querying the how’s and why’s of the situation, rather than the what. The plot itself develops steadily throughout so that you’re never resumed to feeling even an inkling of boredom, there’s always some drama. I have to say that the ending was spectacular and concluded in exactly the right way, though I’d personally be very happy if the author decided to write a sequel.

I loved the snippets of the way life works in Cali – being from dreary England we often read about the sunshine of America, so it was nice to drift further down to Colombia, a country less explored in literature. It was also nice to read about Aunt Rosie, who comes to visit from the States, and some of the other people that joined the missionary camp that were also from there. Through their reactions, the reader was able to fully understand how even minor earthquakes are very scary and the difference in food. The religious theme in the novel was one of my favourites as Josie starts to stray away from her own church and explore other forms of religion. It was interesting to see how Blanca and Aunt Rosie were more open to this than some other characters. Furthermore, how vital Josie’s faith was in keeping her controlled in some pretty stressful situations.

The characters are really fun to meet, from the effervescent Aunt Rosie whose always open to new experiences and offers Josie comfort when she’s down despite living far away, to their motherly maid Blanca. Josie is a wonderful protagonist; brave, adventurous, nosy. She thinks with her heart, wanting to stay true to herself but sometimes making irrational decisions as a consequence. The book has an endearing family feel to it initially, and yet as the story goes on it is not quite as idealistic as appearances may suggest.

Overall, the novel is a lovely read, very easy to get through quickly and perfect for summer. There are some controversial topics discussed, but the author does so delicately with openness to different perspectives. The writing style has an excellent description to dialogue ratio and shows thoughtfulness. There’s nothing graphic, so most age groups will be able to read this without any qualms!

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