The Last Resort
A Memoir of Zimbabwe
By Douglas Rogers
(Crown, Hardcover, 9780307407979, 320pp.)
Publication Date: September 22, 2009
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Thrilling, heartbreaking, and, at times, absurdly funny, The Last Resort is a remarkable true story about one family in a country under siege and a testament to the love, perseverance, and resilience of the human spirit.
Born and raised in Zimbabwe, Douglas Rogers is the son of white farmers living through that country’s long and tense transition from postcolonial rule. He escaped the dull future mapped out for him by his parents for one of adventure and excitement in Europe and the United States. But when Zimbabwe’s president Robert Mugabe launched his violent program to reclaim white-owned land and Rogers’s parents were caught in the cross fire, everything changed. Lyn and Ros, the owners of Drifters–a famous game farm and backpacker lodge in the eastern mountains that was one of the most popular budget resorts in the country–found their home and resort under siege, their friends and neighbors expelled, and their lives in danger. But instead of leaving, as their son pleads with them to do, they haul out a shotgun and decide to stay.
On returning to the country of his birth, Rogers finds his once orderly and progressive home transformed into something resembling a Marx Brothers romp crossed with Heart of Darkness: pot has supplanted maize in the fields; hookers have replaced college kids as guests; and soldiers, spies, and teenage diamond dealers guzzle beer at the bar.
And yet, in spite of it all, Rogers’s parents–with the help of friends, farmworkers, lodge guests, and residents–among them black political dissidents and white refugee farmers–continue to hold on. But can they survive to the end?
In the midst of a nation stuck between its stubborn past and an impatient future, Rogers soon begins to see his parents in a new light: unbowed, with passions and purpose renewed, even heroic. And, in the process, he learns that the "big story" he had relentlessly pursued his entire adult life as a roving journalist and travel writer was actually happening in his own backyard.
Evoking elements of The Tender Bar and Absurdistan, The Last Resort is an inspiring, coming-of-age tale about home, love, hope, responsibility, and redemption. An edgy, roller-coaster adventure, it is also a deeply moving story about how to survive a corrupt Third World dictatorship with a little innovation, humor, bribery, and brothel management.
DOUGLAS ROGERS is an award-winning journalist and travel writer. He was born and raised in Zimbabwe and now lives in Brooklyn.
"This vibrant, tragic and surprsingly funny book is the best account yet of ordinary life—for blacks and whites—under Mugabe’s dictatorship."
—The New York Times Book Review
"A nuanced, funny, and heartbreaking story."
—The New Yorker
"A gorgeous, open-hearted book. Rogers manages to do the vital work of taking race out of Zimbabwe's story and putting the heart and humanity back into it. A must read for anyone who really wants to understand the extraordinary decency of ordinary Zimbabweans."
—Alexandra Fuller, author of Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight
"I read it in one sitting. I loved it.”
—Rian Malan, author of My Traitor's Heart
"Do we really need another memoir by a white Zimbabwean? The surprising answer is yes, if it's as good as Douglas Rogers' THE LAST RESORT….A ripping yarn….[moves] beyond memoir to become a chronicle of a nation. There is black and white, yes, but much more in the shades and tones of their mix—and it is in exploring them that Rogers, too, find his art."
"Zimbabwe in vertiginous decline is the backdrop for Douglas Rogers’s corrosively funny THE LAST RESORT, in which Roger’s parents, among the country’s last remaining white farmers, attract everyone from prostitutes and diamond dealers to their backpacker lodge."
—Vogue, featured in "The Season's Best Memoirs"
"Born in Zimbabwe, New York-based travel writer Rogers moves between two worlds with wit and grace while telling the dire-straits story of his childhood in Zimbabwe and his recent return....Angst, humor, beauty and terror mingle freely in his narrative....This rousing memoir should win over anyone with a taste for exotic can't-go-home-again stories.
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"As President Mugabe's regime turns belligerent toward white farmers, journalist Rogers witnesses the struggle of his family and others to hold on to their land....Rogers' decision to write about his parents' lodge and the people who find refuge there as violence erupts and the economy turns catastrophic brings him close to all kinds of people, black and white, from war veterans and politicians to farmers and squatters. Scrupulous in his documentation, Rogers talks to everybody about the way things were and what might come next....Brilliantly funny and wry."
"Pitch-perfect, undeniably real, and, most important, achingly funny, Rogers deftly reminds us that after wiping away tears and even burying the dead, a good antidote to the violent, poignant, and completely absurd place that Zimbabwe has become is to throw arms wide to the undaunted African sky and simply laugh."
—Wendy Kann, author of Casting with a Fragile Thread: A Story of Sisters and sAfrica
"Travelogue, adventure yarn, political intrigue, tragedy, and high-wire journalism, The Last Resort is a love story about the author and his homeland, Zimbabwe. She is by turns ineffably beautiful, unspeakably hideous, insanely rich, desperately poor, democratic, brutally autocratic, violent, corrupt, and dysfunctional, even though, in person, her people seem to be, one and all, hardscrabble heroes and survivors. Rogers tries to leave her and doesn't even want to write about her, but, in the end, her charms are irresistible. He can't help himself and neither can we."
—Richard Dooling, author of White Man's Grave
"With breathtaking talent, wry wit, and abundant heart, Douglas Rogers tells the compulsively readable tale of his parents' daily struggles to hold on to their land in the nightmarish landscape of present-day Zimbabwe. With every turn of the page, you fear for the Rogerses' survival, as well as the survival of the country they love so much. But even as they face the most difficult of challenges, their indomitable spirit shines through, revealing the ordinary heroism of people in extraordinary circumstances."
—Anne Landsman, author of The Rowing Lesson