Wait for God to Notice is a love letter to an adopted country with an unstable past and an undeniable endurance to heal.
In 1975, Uganda’s Finance Minister escaped to England saying, “To live in Uganda today is hell.” Idi Amin had declared himself president for life, the economy had crashed, and Ugandans were disappearing. One year later, the Fordham family arrived as Seventh-day Adventist missionaries.
Fordham narrates her childhood with lush, observant prose that is also at times quite funny. She describes her family’s insular faith, her mother’s Finnish heritage, the growing conflict between her parents, the dangerous politics of Uganda, and the magic of living in a house in the jungle. Driver ants stream through their bedrooms, mambas drop out of the stove, and monkeys steal their tomatoes.
Wait for God to Notice is a memoir about growing up in Uganda. It is also a memoir about mothers and daughters and about how children both know and don’t know their parents. As teens, Fordham and her sister, Sonja, considered their mother overly cautious. After their mother dies of cancer, the author begins to wonder who her mother really was. As she recalls her childhood in Uganda—the way her mother killed snakes, sweet-talked soldiers, and sold goods on the black market—Fordham understands that the legacy her mother left her daughters is one of courage and capability.
Sari Fordam has lived in Uganda, Kenya, Thailand, South Korea, and Austria. She received an M.F.A. from the University of Minnesota, and now teaches at La Sierra University. She lives in California with her husband and daughter. This is her first book.
This gripping, astutely written memoir of adventures and misadventures is also a very moving story of a mother-daughter relationship. One cannot help admiring the heroic stubbornness and resiliency of this naive, idealistic clan of missionaries, as they adjust to near-impossible circumstances presided over by mad tyrant Idi Amin. —Phillip Lopate, A Mother’s Tale and Two Marriages
It is so rare to find a book as generous in spirit as Sari Fordham’s Wait for God to Notice. Fordham’s portrait of her childhood in Uganda, growing up in a missionary family during the time of Idi Amin, is sometimes harrowing, sometimes funny, and sometimes beautifully sad. Her love for east Africa and for her stubbornly remarkable parents will make you want to buy one copy of this exquisite memoir for yourself, and a few for your friends.—Julie Schumacher, Dear Committee Members and The Shakespeare Requirement
Missionaries, even with the best intentions, don’t quite know what they’re getting themselves into. Especially in Uganda under the reign of Idi Amin. Food is scarce. Driver ants and snakes are omnipresent. Ordinary errands mean dealing with blockades, bribes, and sometimes terror. Sari Fordham has written a memoir of a family both innocent and brave. Written with compassion, humor and a healthy dollop of skepticism, Fordham creates a world as vibrant and alive as Africa itself. A truly compelling read.—Fern Kupfer, Leaving Long Island
Sari Fordham’s Wait for God to Notice is both a story of a young girl and her missionary family’s life in Uganda in the 1970s among political unrest, and a meditation on landscape; of how our love is made from the stuff of the places in which we grow. Most deeply and poignantly, however, this is a daughter’s address to her mother, upon whom the memoir focuses most of all, and speaks to, and loves. I enjoyed this book immensely. It is lucid, careful, expressive, and wryly funny, and searchingly emotive without being sentimental. Sari Fordham takes her time—there is wisdom and authority here. Wait for God to Notice is a unique, pleasurable, heartbreaking read.—Amanda Coplin, The Orchardist
In Wait for God to Notice, Sari Fordham movingly and intelligently probes the ties that bind us: to our families, our homes, our cultures, our faith. She examines the simultaneously tenuous and unbreakable nature of attachment and identity as only the daughter of missionaries could. I fell in love with the author’s family and with the wide-eyed, outsider children she and her sister were. Fordham’s writing is funny, affectionate, wise, and socially aware, and I didn’t want this beautifully-written book to end. —Andria Williams, The Longest Night
The missionary experience occupies a fraught corner of contemporary memoir. Sari Fordham approaches it simply as a girl, growing up in a faraway land. She doesn’t celebrate the mission so much as her memories of family and home in a place that, as she notes, was never really theirs. The specter of Idi Amin casts the decency of the Fordhams and their Ugandan hosts in sharp relief—we root for them, and especially for this storyteller.—Ted Conover, Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing