We meet Jane Bussmann in Hollywood where, having failed at making it as a comedy writer, she is making a living interviewing – or making up interviews with – celebrities. Not feeling like this was, perhaps, just where her career ought to have taken her, she sets out to do something more meaningful in the best way she can, by finding a celebrity that’s doing something worthwhile. That he is also drop-dead gorgeus does not strike her as a drawback, hence the title. Through a series of events Bussmann finds herself in Uganda, without her interviewee, and starts doing her own research while waiting for him to show up. What she finds is that the drawn out conflict between the government of Uganda, headed by Museveni – regarded by “the west” as one of the Good Guys – and the rebel Kony, leading an army consisting mostly of kidnapped children, was not being carried out in such a straightforward manner as one might think, and that who was actually on which side seemed less clear the more people you talked to.
Now, finding that a conflict in an African country is not straight forward, finding that a conflict anywhere at all is not straight forward, is hardly surprising. However, Bussmann manages to narrate her investigation in such a way that you do feel personally involved, which is a good thing.
And along the way she does manage to convey the insanity of conflicts such as these and some of the plain idiocy you can be met with from those who are supposed to know better. Of the latter, here is an example:
Rebecca had had her retirement plans shelved by AIDS. I could be wrong, but I’d read that the man George Bush put in charge of foreign aid had the chance to make AIDS drugs affordable in Africa. However, the unfortunately named Andrew Natsios said it would have been irresponsible, because these drugs need to be taken at the same time every day. He really did mean Africans couldn’t tell the time.
All in all, though, it left me feeling a little… deflated? Not that I expected Bussmann to somehow, singlehandedly, solve all the political problems in Africa. That, I guess, would be an unfair expectation. However I guess I did expect… something. Something more than the book provides, anyway. Because whereas, to all intents and purposes, The Other Hand – a book still fresh in my memory – ends in disaster, it still manages to be life-affirming, and The Worst Date Ever ends on a bit of a “Meh”.