This book is as beautiful as a poem, or a centuries old tale passed down in oral tradition. The author has drawn on the style and language of various African traditions but built a whole new fabric of them. We hear the life stories of two young women, one a lion and the other a painted dog. Each has a traditional life path or what we would call a "career" to fulfill, and those paths are rigidly limited by the customs of their people. Each eventually reaches a crossroad, a point at which she must decide whether to follow her heart and conscience or follow the tradition as expected, nay demanded of her.
I will not say what happens, but will let you read the book to find out. It's a journey well worth taking, and the flow of the language is a joy to travel with. By the end I felt that I knew both Leya and Ndiri as personal friends, and respected them very much. Leya is the title character, the young lioness who chooses to reject the possibility of marriage and family in favor of becoming a dedicated huntress. Ndiri is the painted dog, a shaman and spiritual leader trained by her grandmother, whose path was chosen for her "by the gods" and sometimes as she finds, against her own will.
When the two meet, they become teachers one to another, and each grows from the sharing and caring. The tale is one of joy and sadness, loss and gain, with a hint of melancholy that undoubtedly would appear in the music that Ndiri composes and plays on her wooden flute.
Read this. I think you'll like it. I certainly did.
(reviewed 27 days after purchase)