In Notes from a Spinning Planet— Papua New Guinea, Melody Carlson does a remarkable job of presenting the crisis of AIDS in Papua, New Guinea, while assuring the reader that not all of the islanders have the loose morals we may believe they have. Many of her characters are accused of doing something to deserve AIDS, but not all of the afflicted people are at fault.
The story is about a twenty-year-old compassionate woman named Maddie Chase. On her birthday, she boards a plane with her Aunt Sid. They make an unexpected detour along the way, but the real adventure begins once they reach Papua, New Guinea. Her aunt works as a journalist for a magazine, and her boss has a strong interest in the AIDS epidemic in New Guinea. When he sends Sid to the island, he encourages her to take Maddie with her. However, at times Sid wishes she hadn’t done so because of the danger.
They hear many sorrow-filled stories from innocent victims who contracted the disease from an act of violence and others who received it because of a spouse’s unfaithfulness. One of the most moving stories comes from Lydia Obuti, a local resident, who was adopted by a missionary couple from the states. She quickly becomes Maddie’s closest friend during her stay on the island. Near the end of the story, Maddie learns a dark truth and the reason for Lydia’s dedication to caring for the AIDS victims in hospitals where AIDS patients are usually neglected. Lydia’s ability to overcome the trials she has faced and to use them to help others is inspirational.
Maddie helps another character in the book, Peter Sampala, forsake his judgment of victims with AIDS. When he first appears in the book, Peter is coerced into taking Maddie through the hospital. He is disgusted and does not hide it well. Yet, his heart is transformed because of Maddie, and he does something extraordinary that he never would have done if he still held on to his earlier resentment.
At one disturbing point in the book, Maddie and her aunt drive through the most depraved section in Papua. Carlson paints a vivid picture in the mind that is horrid but sadly realistic. This particular part, though gruesome, is necessary to tell the whole truth.
Throughout her journey, Maddie learns to overcome her fears and to shed light into the seemingly impenetrable darkness engulfing the island. Her encounters with the island people reveal that, like anywhere, not all of the people are corrupt. In fact, most of them are hospitable and kind-hearted.
Melody Carlson mixes occasional humor into the story, which keeps the book from being overwhelming and bleak. The targeted audience is mostly young adults and teenagers. While the book would be great for anyone to read, the way the characters speak, which includes some slang, would appeal more to a younger age group. Notes from a Spinning Planet— Papua New Guinea gives understanding while drawing compassion for the plight of those suffering from AIDS. – Christa Mullen, Christian Book Previews.com
I have to wonder–if the AIDS crisis in Papua New Guinea is so hopeless, what difference will it make whether Aunt Sid writes a good story about it or not? What difference will it make that I’m here with her? I ask God to do something miraculous for both of us in this third world country. I ask God to use me…
After her life-changing journey to Ireland, twenty-year-old Maddie Chase feels ready for whatever she and her Aunt Sid will find on their trip to Papua New Guinea. But when she sets foot on the beautiful South Pacific island, she can’t help but notice the sense of hopelessness around her.
Through their investigative reporting, Maddie and Aunt Sid learn that this developing country is literally dying of AIDS. As Maddie delves deeper into the culture and history of the land–and develops relationships with nationals who are eager to share their lives–she finds a tangled past that could help to explain the current health crisis.
Will Maddie be able to see past the darkness to offer light to these gracious island people? Join Maddie on her latest international adventure as she learns that maybe it is possible for one person to change history.