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Dave Kobrenski
Finding the Source

Adult; Memoir; (Market)

An artist’s twenty-year struggle to overcome a painful affliction takes him ever deeper into West Africa, and into realms of spirit and healing he never imagined possible. A profound real-life adventure story that spans continents—and worlds.
Author, artist, musician, and traveler Kobrenski (Drawing on Culture), candidly shares his long search for meaning in life–and for relief from the autoimmune disease he lived with for two decades. Thinking of himself as “a mystic vagabond poet of days past,” Kobrenski drifted in life while searching for purpose until he came across a West African drumming course. African music became his passion and livelihood, leading him to new friends and new love. But on a visit to Africa, he finds himself struck with a debilitating illness. His concerned local friends warn that he might somehow have been cursed and encourage him to seek out a sorcerer, but Kobrenski returns home before taking such a step. Back in the United States he is diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis and starts a lengthy battle with his body and himself.

Africa and art serve as lifelines to Kobrenski during years of misery, disappointments, losses and an unhealthy relationship with opioids, all of which he describes with vivid power. When he is faced with the risk of losing his ability to play music, he takes the advice of a shaman and, with the help of his African friends, undertakes a quest to appease the ancestors and lift his curse. The narrative skips back and forth in time, as well as through subjects, with Kobrenski's interesting asides and historical connections offering a welcome context for his story, which he shares with disarming frankness.

Kobrenski aptly captures the struggle of many chronically ill, between wanting to make the most out of life, fear of commitment because of their pain, and the growing desperation for a cure–which, in this case, even makes potentially being bitten by a scorpion sound like a good idea. Though his treatment choices prove unorthodox, his call to never give up on love and to never identify yourself with your adversity are vital reminders in a book that will inspire seekers whose lives are touched by chronic illness.

Takeaway: A painful yet hopeful story of chronic illness and an African quest.

Great for fans of: Elisabeth Tova Bailey’s The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating, Anna Lyndsey’s Girl in the Dark.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: A
Editing: B
Marketing copy: A-