Book: Child of the Jungle by Sabine Kuegler

This is non-fiction–not my usual fare–but it was recommended by a friend and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s the spare memoir of a German girl whose family moved to West Papua, New Guinea so her father could study the language and culture of the Fayu tribe. The Fayu was made up of several warring sects, and nearly all disputes were settled by killing, followed by continuous cycle of revenge. The three Kuegler children and their parents earned their welcome to the area and were soon seen as valued members of the tribe. Sabine and her siblings knew little of any other life than that of the jungle. Reading about the unfamiliar culture of the Fayu and how Sabine and her family fit in with them was  fascinating. The real heart of the story to me, though, is how the Fayu changed through contact with the Kueglers. Rather than proselytizing, the Kueglers set an example for the Fayu through their own peaceful resolution of differences–an example that came to be embraced by the tribe over the years.
Sabine finally leaves the jungle for boarding school at the age of 17, and her re-introduction to civilization is not smooth. She truly was a young woman who didn’t fully belong in either world. In reading interviews with her, it seems she still struggles with this dilemma.
My only issue with the book is that it was so spare. I wanted more. I had many questions about Sabine and longed to understand more about her, especially during her adolescence. Having worked on my own memoir, I know that “remembering” is difficult, both cognitively and emotionally, and perhaps that is part of the problem. I highly recommend the book to those of you who enjoy reading about other cultures, told by a sympathetic fish out of water.
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  1. Brenda on March 14, 2007 at 4:58 pm

    Will order this book at library. Sounds intriguing…

  2. Diane Chamberlain on March 14, 2007 at 5:10 pm

    Let me know what you think, Brenda. I also just read an older book called FOLLOW THE RIVER, author’s surname is Thom, about Mary Ingles escape from the Shawnee Indians. Have you read it? Most absorbing!

  3. Brenda on March 14, 2007 at 7:16 pm

    FOLLOW THE RIVER is fantastic…

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