Elaine Neil Orr – A Different Sun

December 3, 2013 | By | 4 Replies More

Elaine Neil Orr’s A Different Sun


US Author Elaine Neil Orr in North Carolina

“As lyrical and passionate a novel as has ever been written…” Lee Smith

“An important book, one which unflinchingly explores tensions between Christianity and African religions, slavery and freedom, madness and love.”—Wayne Caldwell, author of Cataloochee and Requiem by Fire

In 1853, newly married Emma Bowman arrives in Africa and steps into a world of unsurpassed beauty — and peril.  A page turning adventures with life and death stakes for the body and the soul. . .

Born into a life of privilege in rural Georgia, Emma yearns for important work.  An ardent passion burns in her soul, spurring her beyond the narrow confines of her family’s slave-holding plantation.  She meets and weds Henry Bowman, a tremendously attractive former Texas Ranger twice her age, who has turned from the rifle to the cross.  Together with their dreams of serving God they take ship for West Africa.  Emma leaves every known thing behind, save a writing box Henry has made for her. In it she carries a red journal and an odd carving made by an old African owned by her father.

The couple’s intimate life has hardly begun when they are beset by illness, treacherous travel, an early pregnancy, a death.  Emma opens her heart to Africa, yet at every turn her faith is challenged.  In deep night, she turns to the odd carving for comfort and in snatches of calm makes record in her diary.  She redoubles her energies, even as she begins to doubt her husband’s sanity.  Yet she loves him.

When they hire Jacob, a native assistant to guide their caravan, Emma is confronted with her greatest challenge.  Henry’s health begins to fail, and she is drawn deeper into the African world.

Something is revealing itself to her.  But is it a haunting mystery from her past or a new revelation coming toward her out of this mysterious continent?

Elaine is an award-winning Professor of English at North Carolina State University and serves on the faculty of the brief-residency MFA in Writing Program at Spalding University.

A Different Sun is a novel about the power of African culture to sustain itself even under slavery and to change anyone who comes in contact with it.

Elaine Neil Orr takes us inside a slave owner’s daughter’s experiences in Africa, drawing from her own childhood experience growing up in Nigeria as well as a detailed diary from the time.

A Different Sun Cover by Elaine Neil Orr

A beautiful cover, and beautiful writing: A Different Sun


We were pleased to have given away 5 copies of A Different Sun through one of our #WWWBgiveaways! Thank you Elaine Neil Orr!!


  —- o9-10 l16f322t154.x0.ks16 10-14usk 144301; usp 407633 10-14cap 584461; ukp 428744; dep506820 18-10 l17f333t164xo.ks –usk134852; usp 168199; ukp543,173; ukk161027

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Category: Contemporary Women Writers

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  1. Just as I watched the sun setting over the blue Caribbean Sea, I finished reading “A Different Sun.” It was so perfect a story. I could identify with it on many levels. It brought back vivid memories of arriving as a young wife, mother and missionary in a country I had never seen, and learning to appreciate and love a people so very different in appearance, yet similar in many ways. We lived for 39 years on a small island as missionaries. I came, as Emma did, young and naïve. I too felt rather superior in some ways, and soon ( but, perhaps not soon enough) came to realize I had so much I could learn from the very people I had come to teach. I highlighted so many parts of the book as I read. It was written with words so rich in style, so profound, in so many ways. I have written a memoir taken from my Grandmother Elsie’s diary. Now I wonder how Elaine would have told Elsie’s story. Elsie had some rather cryptic notes in her diary. I was able to discover answers to some of them while doing research. I recently wrote a “tidbit” on my website entitled, “If only walls could talk.” I suppose that is what historical novels do. They allow us to “hear the walls” reveal the stories behind those who lived before our time. I felt Africa; I seemed to hear the walls of Emma’s home’s revealing secrets. Thank you, Elaine for sharing this vivid story.

  2. Florence says:

    I’m excited by the novel already tho I haven’t got one. I’m Nigerian. And learning that Elaine once lived in my country as a missionary’s daughter is more exciting.Knowing she’s drawing 4rm this experience makes me yearn for the book already. Where exactly did you stay in Nigeria, Elaine? And how was the experience…that’s if you can still recollect.
    Im from Lagos,Nigeria. I’m of the Yoruba tribe.

    • Anora McGaha says:

      Florence, thank you so much for your comment. We’ll point it out to Elaine. Her memoir Gods of the Noonday is about her experience growing up in Nigeria. I’ve just finished reading A Different Sun and it was so rich in so many ways. If you’re on Twitter, do follow us at @womenwriters, and me at @anorawrites. We’re also on Facebook. Are you? – Anora McGaha, Editor Women Writers, Women[‘s] Books

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