Strangers Are Like Children: Stories of Africa


188 pages
ISBN 0-919001-98-X
DDC C813'.54






Reviewed by Martha Wilson

Martha Wilson is Canadian correspondent for the Japan Times (Tokyo) and
a Toronto-based freelance editor and writer.


These 15 stories of expatriates in West Africa are dominated by themes
of loss and futility.

In one of the less successful stories, Annie, a white worker with a
Canadian development organization, misreads an African intellectual’s
politeness on their shared flight. Feeling rebuffed by him, she takes
her anger out on those around her. Later, she tells a fellow Canadian,
“Considering all we’re doing to help them, they’re pretty
arrogant. And ungrateful.” Annie’s too much a poster child of North
American blindness to be convincing as a character.

Baxter is stronger when she eschews preaching. Many of her characters
find themselves in peculiar and often frightening situations. (“She
was deathly afraid of the commandos on the corners. There was no way to
tell which side they were on, which side anyone was on.”) In “Act of
God,” a moment of thoughtless rudeness leads to a child’s death.
“Returning” tells of a woman who is no longer able to recognize the
people she used to live with. Most heartbreaking of all is the title
story, in which a foreign woman is imprisoned and used as bait.


Baxter, Joan., “Strangers Are Like Children: Stories of Africa,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 12, 2024,