Nothing But Rainforest is a literary thriller that examines the horrors of violence against women in Papua New Guinea and its effects on a volunteer teacher from England, his African American predecessor and a Papua New Guinean woman.
In 1987 in a remote part of the Papua New Guinean Highlands, Simon Jones a British VSO teacher, discovers his predecessor, an African American called Marcus Johnson, had vanished from the school two months earlier. He hears conflicting stories from the teachers about Johnson’s disappearance. In the nearest town he meets an Australian doctor and joins him on a medical trip where he’s asked to examine a corpse to determine whether the death was due to witchcraft. On seeing the decaying body, Simon recognises the sweatshirt as worn by Johnson in a photograph he had seen.
Simon is introduced by the principal’s wife to Evelyn, a primary teacher who was a friend of Johnson. Taking a huge risk in a different culture, he begins a relationship with Evelyn. She tells him that Johnson was in trouble with the father of a female student, called Mara, for allegedly having a sexual affair. The last time she saw Johnson, he was planning to visit his sick mother in America. Simon and Evelyn are shocked to hear that Johnson’s family have filed a missing person’s report. After a visit by Johnson’s father, they realise Johnson had been threatened for questioning violence against women and its association with witchcraft and the Pentecostal church. Against Evelyn’s advice, he is determined to find out what happened to Johnson which puts him in imminent danger.
Nothing But Rainforest is in the territory chartered by Conrad in the Heart of Darkness and by Alex Garland in The Beach. It would appeal to readers who want stories that address social injustice in the developing world such as The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver and Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones.