The Mayor of Mogadishu by Andrew Harding Reviewed by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge

The Mayor of Mogadishu; A Story of Chaos and Redemption in the Ruins of Somalia by Andrew Harding; St. Martin’s Press, 2016.  278 pages; $26.99 (hardcover); reading level: adult.

As Harding admits in his introduction, this is both a biography of Mohamud “Tarzan” Nur (mayor of Mogadishu, Somalia from 2010 to 2014) and a recounting of Somalia’s tumultuous history from Tarzan’s birth (around the year 1955) to the present. As we follow Tarzan from starving childhood to brutal orphanage (a step up!) to twenty-year life in exile and then back to Mogadishu with a horde of fellow expats in 2010, we witness Somalia’s recent history through the eyes of one who lived in the dust of drought, the rubble of war, the guilt of exile, and the fear of terrorism. At each stage, Tarzan finds, through faith and sheer grit, the courage to take on his next life challenge. Even for Harding, a seasoned BBC journalist, the absence of public records and Tarzan’s conviction that “the facts themselves have no value” makes the truth difficult to nail down: Is Tarzan a hero or a con man? Did he rescue Mogadishu or loot it? The cast of characters is perhaps larger than necessary and the unfolding of the story through flashbacks creates some confusion (a timeline would have been helpful). But all in all, I thoroughly appreciated the journey to a place and a way of thinking that challenged my privileged, fastidiously prissy worldview.

Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge, Author

Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge

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