Specks of Dust

Will Duncan

Publisher: Will Duncan Pages: 346 Price: (paperback) $15.99 ISBN: 9798988078302 Reviewed: July, 2023 Author Website: Visit »

When a young man flees Uganda searching for a better life in America, he faces struggles not so different from his homeland: He’s betrayed by friends, mistreated by the law and naïve about the church and those who claim to be Christians.

Umaru Moses attempts to sleep in a Piggly Wiggly parking lot near Atlanta when a corrupt police officer approaches, asking Umaru questions he can’t satisfactorily answer. Umaru ends up in jail, where he reflects on his unfortunate journey.

Umaru led a comfortable life until his father died following a motorbike accident. With his mother struggling to support the family, Umaru takes to the streets, where he befriends other street kids, and together they survive however they can, many huffing “chengay,” or jet fuel.

When police sweep the streets before a parade, they encounter children sleeping in empty sugar bags the children use to gather bottles. “Military troops stormed in silently and in a simultaneous effort grabbed the bags and tied them shut with the kids inside. The ones in the field they threw over the garbage fires. Even the garbage couldn’t mask the stench of burning flesh…”

Presbyterian missionaries take the children in after they promise to love and obey Jesus. Eventually, Umaru is recognized as a bright boy and sent to St. Paul’s Secondary School, where he’s allowed to join a field trip to New York and Chicago. Recognizing his chance, Umara flees the school group in Chicago.

This is a gripping, often gut-wrenching tale of impoverished, third world life, but also one of hope and faith. The writing is stellar: “He shivered when he thought about his past, as if a cold, bony finger were running along his spine, a death-rattle hiss reminding him of when…the sunrise was a little bit closer and the half-dollar memories went for pennies.”

The author’s knowledge of Uganda, its poverty, religion and hypocrisy, informs every sentence, as do authentic characters and dialogue. Umaru is steadfast in his belief in Jesus, even as the officer beats him. “You love Jesus?” the officer asks. “’Yes,’ Umaru said through choked sobs…The officer chuckled, then spit… ‘Well, he don’t love you.’”

This isn’t a light story, but its exploration of those who persevere—and even dare to dream—despite great challenges will surely stay with readers well beyond the last page.

Also available as an ebook.

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