What if your parents lived in the heart of darkness?

Thanks to a movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio, an Oscar-winning portrayal of a Ugandan dictator, and Angelina Jolie’s traveling (and adopting) there, Africa is (forgive us) hot right now. And if Hollywood chic helped turn A Long Way Gone and What Is the What into bestsellers, that’s fine by us. We just hope there’s room in the extraordinary-African-memoir niche for yet another entry: When a Crocodile Eats the Sun, the singular, heartbreaking story of white Zimbabwean Peter Godwin.

Godwin returns to his native Zimbabwe from New York (where he lives with his magazine-editor wife and children), and he spends the next eight years frequently returning there — on each visit witnessing more of his country’s downward spiral, under monstrous dictatorial rule, into poverty, famine, and violence.

Godwin is a journalist, and he rivetingly reports cold factual truths. But the heart of this book is his relationship with his heroic, stoic parents, and the secret they’ve kept from him throughout his life. Though his childhood was unusual (and fascinating), everyone can relate to the moving chronicle of a parent’s death and the struggle to leave home.

“>BUY When a Crocodile Eats the Sun: A Memoir of Africa (Little, Brown and Company; 352 pages; hardcover)

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What if your parents lived in the heart of darkness?