Book Review: First Comes Love, Then Comes Malaria

Travel Books & Movies — By on January 18, 2011 at 12:50 pm

First Comes Love, Then Comes Malaria: How a Peace Corps Poster Boy Won My Heart and a Third World Adventure Changed My Life

by Eve Brown-Waite

Broadway Books

RATING: 3.5 Stars

I really wanted to fall madly in love with this book.

First Comes Love, Then Comes Malaria is Eve Brown-Wait’s opus, 20 years in the making, about how a “Japanese American Princess” (her words; not mine) learned how to shelve her Banana Republic and appreciate life in an actual banana republic.

After repressed anxiety forces an early return from the Peace Corps, she wrestles her demons while gaining a Master’s in Public Health. She falls in love with her former Peace Corps recruiter. They wed. And when he secures a job in remote Uganda, they flit off together for an expat adventure. It sounded like a less egocentric Eat Pray Love —which I loved anyway.

The best part of this book was Brown-Waite’s voice. Her candor, humor and dry wit, reminiscent of Bill Bryson, drew me through the book in two days. Plus, the narrative provides a refreshing peek into expat life and foreign aid that the normal travel canon overlooks.

But sometimes, I found the charm of her voice simply annoying. Brown-Waite makes no qualms about the hardships of expat life. Which I appreciate. When I was in Guatemala, I wanted a pedicure after three weeks.

However, after eight months in the Peace Corps in Ecuador, obtaining a Master’s in Public Health and creating programs on HIV/AIDS prevention and care, I found it hard to believe that Brown-Waite landed in Uganda wondering about how she’d  get a cappuccino and maintaining judgmental riffs about the local culture.

The voice and timeline just seems overdone. She falls in love with her future husband in a weekend. Perhaps I’m jaded, but that seemed to fit the page count more than real life. And though the dialogue makes the book, it does a disservice to Brown-Waite. She’s a smart girl. One does not have a resume like hers without being a smart girl. Yet her accomplishments often take a backseat to this whiney, judgmental, charming, funny inner dialogue. I wanted to shake her on the shoulders and say “Quit talking about your dishwasher! You just educated women in Uganda about AIDS!”

So no, I didn’t fall madly in love with this book, but I did like this book. Eve eventually assimilates with grace and believability, and I enjoyed the story. It’s honest. It’s a quick, entertaining read, perfect for the beach, and in the end, the story is about life, not work, so her commentary fits.

If you’re interested in reading more about First Comes Love, Then Comes Malaria, please check it out on Amazon.

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