I put Alison Archer’s Zebras in London on my Kindle for three reasons. First, that I needed something on my e-reader to amuse me when I faced a long time sitting around and waiting. Second, because I am an admittedly proud Anglophile and the word London caught my eye. And third, because I’m cheap about e-books and this one was a free download on Amazon. None of these reasons sound like ringing endorsements to start a book review with, I know. I’m getting to the ringing endorsement of this book. For all my lame reasons getting the book, I’m so very happy that I did.
Zebras in London is about a young American woman named Yvonne who goes to study theater in London. Yvonne is haunted by mistakes she made in America and she’s on a mission to right the wrongs she carries the blame for. Not that anyone blames her overly much. After all, we are our own harshest judges. First and most important on the list of people she wants to makes amends with is her beloved grandmother, whose prize possession she destroyed. In her quest to do that, to replace what was lost, she stumbles into two more broken families – families filled with hidden secrets and long-standing issues.
The first family as that of an English pastor whose son fled home with $3,000 church money after letting his father believe he was gay and all but forcing his father to kick him out. They want their son to come home and, if they won’t, they want him to know that they love him – even if he can’t return the money. Yvonne, who meets them in her search to fix things for her grandmother, promises to track down their son in London and give him their messages. For her, it’s part of her penance.
While she’s looking for the son, a stage actor, she meets a woman dresses almost entirely in zebra stripes (although, to be fair, if the newly arrived Harley is the more obvious zebra in the story, Yvonne is very close behind as she tries to change her stripes) who makes a living as a lesbian prostitute when she’s not teaching fencing to stage actors. Harley offers to help Yvonne find the man she’s looking for.
Using this review to tell every step that Yvonne and Harley take through the story would be to tell the story and that’s not right for a review. What I will tell you about this is that their friendship gives the highest and lowest points of the story. Lowest doesn’t mean worst, either. It means the points that are real and raw and make you not want to put the book, e-reader, down.
The tie that binds all of this together is Harley, which is her chosen name not her birth name, and she brings Yvonne to a place of peace and forgiveness with her grandmother. She brings her own father the closure her never had. She brings the pastor’s family back together, in an awkward and tenuous sort of way. The she finds herself, and when she does, she realizes the people who love her don’t care who she really is.
The story is about Yvonne, she is the main character and the book is mostly from her perspective. It’s Harley, though, that is the undercurrent of everything and it is absolutely perfect that way.
The moral of this review is that sometimes it pays to be cheap. I’m going to read this book again, and soon.