Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Review - Wild Life

Title:   Wild Life
Author:  Kenna Roberts
Publisher:  Grand Central Publishing
Genre:   Memoir
Format:  Print ARC
No. of Pages:   304
Date of Publication:   November 12, 2019
My Rating:   5 Stars


Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight meets Mean Girls in this funny, insightful fish-out-of-water memoir about a young girl coming of age half in a "baboon camp" in Botswana, half in a ritzy Philadelphia suburb.

Keena Roberts split her adolescence between the wilds of an island camp in Botswana and the even more treacherous halls of an elite Philadelphia private school. In Africa, she slept in a tent, cooked over a campfire, and lived each day alongside the baboon colony her parents were studying. She could wield a spear as easily as a pencil, and it wasn't unusual to be chased by lions or elephants on any given day. But for the months of the year when her family lived in the United States, this brave kid from the bush was cowed by the far more treacherous landscape of the preppy, private school social hierarchy.

Most girls Keena's age didn't spend their days changing truck tires, baking their own bread, or running from elephants as they tried to do their schoolwork. They also didn't carve bird whistles from palm nuts or nearly knock themselves unconscious trying to make homemade palm wine. But Keena's parents were famous primatologists who shuttled her and her sister between Philadelphia and Botswana every six months. Dreamer, reader, and adventurer, she was always far more comfortable avoiding lions and hippopotamuses than she was dealing with spoiled middle-school field hockey players.

In Keena's funny, tender memoir, Wild Life, Africa bleeds into America and vice versa, each culture amplifying the other. By turns heartbreaking and hilarious, Wild Life is ultimately the story of a daring but sensitive young girl desperately trying to figure out if there's any place where she truly fits in.

Keena Roberts split her time in Kenya, then Botswana, and also Philadelphia as her famous primatologist parents worked on a baboon camp. The wilds had plenty of danger, but when back in the States, Keena had just as much danger - from mean-spirited girls who never made her feel accepted.

For more of my thoughts on this captivating memoir, please see this YouTube video review - 

Many thanks to and to NetGalley for this ARC for review. This is my honest opinion.


Keena Roberts is the author of Wild Life: Dispatches From a Childhood of Baboons and Button-Downs, a memoir about growing up in a research camp in Botswana and the transition back to the life of an American high school student in a wealthy suburb of Philadelphia.

A born adventurer, Keena is drawn to stories featuring strong female protagonists and survival in incredible worlds full of danger, animals, and natural beauty. Her current work in progress is an epic fantasy novel, also set in the Okavango Delta, featuring baboon protagonists based on actual monkeys from the troop she grew up observing with her parents. 

The daughter of two prominent primatologists, she is a graduate of Harvard University and holds two Masters degrees from Johns Hopkins University in international development as well as global disease epidemiology and control. She has worked in the world of global health for more than ten years, mostly in the field of HIV/AIDS, and credits her time in Botswana for developing her interest in this field. 

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