Moving and poignant, The Train of Salt and Sugar follows a train and its passengers on their harrowing and often violent journey―a journey of self-discovery, and of pain, hunger, death and love. Out of every conflict situation comes a myriad of stories, stories about people, set against the backdrop of war. During the bitter and protracted Mozambican civil war there are many such stories, but none so courageous nor so passionate and beautiful as that told in The Train of Salt and Sugar.
Mozambique, after many years of war, first for their independence against the Portuguese and then against each other during the civil war, was left a desolate wasteland; with little or no infrastructure and a starving population. Trains seldom ran, the tracks had been sabotaged and the probability of enemy attacks was very real. Yet on a misty morning in the town of Nampula, in northern Mozambique, a convoy of three trains, loaded with supplies, three garrisons of soldiers and over 600 passengers left relative safety, destined for Cuamba, a town 341 kilometers to the west, bordering Malawi. The book takes its title from a woman, Mariamu, who plans to trade her supply of salt, a rare commodity, for sugar, an even rarer commodity, in Malawi, thus enabling her to feed her children in the coming year.
The harrowing journey is as colorful as its passengers―civilians and soldiers alike. A fragile love is born amid the death―between a young nurse returning home and a soldier who’s tasked with protecting her. A despicable officer whose behaviors repulses; insightful railwaymen and an unseen enemy whose numerous and varied attacks leave the passengers terrified, exhausted and dying of thirst―these are the protagonists.