Papua New Guinea 1976
Twenty-five-year-old anthropologist Hanna Lowry and her husband have helped the primitive Wanagi tribe grow coffee as a cash crop for three hard, hungry years when the revered village patriarch is murdered. At first, Hanna is secretly thrilled. His death finally frees her to unlock the secrets of the enigmatic Wanagi women. But soon the men’s vengeance-fueled rivalries pull her husband into the center of growing conflict.
Hanna jumps into the fray when Titus, a mixed-race boy fathered by an Australian anthropologist, becomes a pawn in the men’s power plays. As the contest to control Titus comes to a head, Hanna vows to help Titus flee even though it puts her in the crosshairs of a brutal rival chieftain and pushes her marriage to the brink.
As avenues of escape dwindle, shifting alliances, betrayals, and culture clashes test Hanna’s daring and push the limits of her Wanagi knowledge. The only certainty is that not everyone can survive.
The Story Behind The Snakeman’s Wife
I’ve traveled through books since I learned how to read. As a child, I loved to pull out a volume of the Encyclopedia Britannica, find an exotic locale, and imagine what life would be like if I lived there. I had an ongoing fantasy about living with a caravan of Bedouin nomads, but the closest I got was a camel ride at the edge of the Sahara with a guide who claimed to be Bedouin.
From April 1998 to June 2000, my husband and I served as Peace Corps Volunteers in Papua New Guinea. He taught carpentry at the vocational school and I helped run a nutrition program for at-risk women and children through the health center.
Our Menyamya posting was rural and beautiful, with grassy mountains and a winding river. The work was challenging, though mentally and emotionally more than physically. To unwind, I wrote. Main character Hanna Lowry soon appeared on my journal pages and began to spin her tale.