Counting Teeth: A Namibian Story

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By: Peter Midgley

September 2014
300 pages | ISBN 978-1-894987-89-9
$22.00

In Counting Teeth: A Namibian story, Peter Midgley travels the byways of Namibia, along with his teenaged daughter, Sinead. A long-awaited return to his childhood home, Midgley’s journey weaves history, politics and a stunning landscape together with a storyteller’s flare. Midgley deftly moves between the bitter past of the country, with its long history of war, to its complicated present where fragments of the South African imposed apartheid still catch the author unaware and mix strangely with the lively, forward-looking Namibia that he is travelling through. Counting Teeth brings the country to life for the reader, its towns populated with unforgettable characters and its stories spilled out like the semi-precious stones the author is offered along the way.

Excerpt

I could describe how the streets have frayed at the edges, as they inevitably do in almost every African city. I could talk of the cracked plaster and the litter gathering in the street, or the taxis that circle the blocks in search of fares or the intricate array of hand signals that flag them down with explicit instructions on where to go. I could do these things, but that would detract from the new glass and brick monoliths that are steadily elbowing out the old German colonial buildings along the verges of Independence Avenue. Besides, I no longer speak the language of taxis. So much has changed in my absence that I am a familiar stranger in this city.

Read the prologue and first chapter of Counting Teeth.

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Reviews

"Peter Midgley couldn't be silent" (Jody Smiling, Battle River Writing Centre Writing Room, 16/03/2015)
Counting Teeth is as much a story of displacement and identity as it is a father-daughter love story…. Midgley uses a form of literary transference as town by town, grave by grave, skull by skull, he takes his daughter by the hand to bear witness with him, explaining where they are, why they are there, gently bringing all that is his past into their present.”

Review (Greg Zinter, Battle River Writing Centre Writing Room, 16/03/2015)
“Peter Midgley [takes] the reader on a journey of Namibia that captures the imagination as he weaves a multilayered tapestry of proud and often defiant Namibians, war monuments, hidden cemeteries, dusty back roads and tire repair shops….  It is both an intimate exploration and a careful and well researched story of a meandering journey through 21st century Namibia as conducted by Midgley and Sinead, his wonderfully perception and insightful daughter, muse and travelling companion.”

"Counting Teeth offers a fresh journey" (Alexis Kienlen, Daily Herald Tribune, 22/01/2015)
“His writing is lush, detailed and descriptive and it’s obvious that he brings his strengths as a poet to the prose. It is impossible to read this book and not take away a feeling of the country, its landscape and its people.”

"Book Talk – A Namibian Fascination" (Lisa de Nikolits, Goodreads, 29/09/2014)
"Counting Teeth is utterly fascinating and beautifully and lovingly told, and the people that Peter meets are so interesting in their own ways, and it makes you see how truly diverse this world of ours is."

Articles

"Read This, Then That" (Tan Light, All Lit Up, 20/01/2015)
"Namibia’s past is fraught with conflict, and Midgley explores this legacy with his daughter as they travel the byways of this southern African country. The past and future have equal hold of Namibia; Old German buildings butt up against new glass towers in the cities, and remnants of Apartheid occasionally catch the travellers by surprise."

"Book launch set for author of remarkable travel memoir" (Mark Weber, Red Deer Express, 22/10/2014)
“When it comes to effectively reconstructing scenes that took place in the past, Midgley really shines…. As the story – or rather stories unfold – the reader is introduced to so much; Midgley said capturing all the richness of a place - any place - begins with taking notice of our surroundings more carefully.”

"Father-daughter trek to Namibia fuels book on finding family roots" (Michael Hingston, Edmonton Journal, 17/10/2014)
“That small talk became the spark that eventually led to Midgley’s new travel memoir Counting Teeth (Wolsak & Wynn), which chronicles the two-month trip he and his daughter Sinead took to Namibia in 2011. The pair wanted to see what the southwest African country looked and felt like, two decades after winning its war for independence against South Africa.”

"Armchair traveller: The best books to kick-start your wanderlust" (Mark Medley and Domini Clark, Globe and Mail, 10/10/2014)
“[Midgley] left the country of his birth when he was only 5. He returns years later with his 19-year-old daughter in tow, unlikely allies on a trip across the southern Africa country, from its western edge on the Atlantic Ocean, to Botswana on the east and Angola to the north.”

Interviews

"Exploring implications of genocide" (Lisa Goudy, Moose Jaw Times Herald, 19/06/2015)
"As creative non-fiction, it deals with personal travels, but also takes a look at what the repatriation of the skulls means for people."

Videos

The Free Press News Cafe interviews Peter Midgley about Counting Teeth as part of their coverage of the Thin Air writers' festival.

Other Titles by Peter Midgley

Unquiet Bones (2015)

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