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Garden of the Lost and Abandoned: The Extraordinary Story of One Ordinary Woman and the Children She Saves

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The problem by most lights is overwhelming: at least 5,000 children live on the streets of Uganda’s capital city of Kampala. Some forget the names of their villages. The youngest may not know the names of their parents. But Gladys Kalibbala—part journalist, part detective, part Good Samaritan—does not hesitate to dive into difficult or even dangerous situations to aid a ch The problem by most lights is overwhelming: at least 5,000 children live on the streets of Uganda’s capital city of Kampala. Some forget the names of their villages. The youngest may not know the names of their parents. But Gladys Kalibbala—part journalist, part detective, part Good Samaritan—does not hesitate to dive into difficult or even dangerous situations to aid a child. Author of a newspaper column called “Lost and Abandoned,” she is a resource that police and others turn to when they stumble across a stranded kid with a hidden history.  Jessica Yu delivers an acutely observed story of this hardnosed and warmhearted woman, the children she helps, and the twists of fate they experience together. The subplot of Gladys’s garden—her precarious dream of providing a home and livelihood for her vulnerable charges—adds fascinating depth. Garden of the Lost and Abandoned chronicles one woman’s altruism, both ordinary and extraordinary, in a way that is impossible to forget, and impossible not to take to heart.  


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The problem by most lights is overwhelming: at least 5,000 children live on the streets of Uganda’s capital city of Kampala. Some forget the names of their villages. The youngest may not know the names of their parents. But Gladys Kalibbala—part journalist, part detective, part Good Samaritan—does not hesitate to dive into difficult or even dangerous situations to aid a ch The problem by most lights is overwhelming: at least 5,000 children live on the streets of Uganda’s capital city of Kampala. Some forget the names of their villages. The youngest may not know the names of their parents. But Gladys Kalibbala—part journalist, part detective, part Good Samaritan—does not hesitate to dive into difficult or even dangerous situations to aid a child. Author of a newspaper column called “Lost and Abandoned,” she is a resource that police and others turn to when they stumble across a stranded kid with a hidden history.  Jessica Yu delivers an acutely observed story of this hardnosed and warmhearted woman, the children she helps, and the twists of fate they experience together. The subplot of Gladys’s garden—her precarious dream of providing a home and livelihood for her vulnerable charges—adds fascinating depth. Garden of the Lost and Abandoned chronicles one woman’s altruism, both ordinary and extraordinary, in a way that is impossible to forget, and impossible not to take to heart.  

30 review for Garden of the Lost and Abandoned: The Extraordinary Story of One Ordinary Woman and the Children She Saves

  1. 5 out of 5

    JenniferD

    this is a worthwhile read, and i am glad jessica yu has been able to share gladys kalibbala's wonderful story with readers. kalibbala is a journalist in kampala, uganda. in her weekly column for a national newspaper, her focus is on stories of homeless children - in an effort to reunite these kids with family members, if at all possible. kalibbala seems like a very altruistic person. she is not even remotely well off, yet becomes personally involved in many of these children's lives - securing m this is a worthwhile read, and i am glad jessica yu has been able to share gladys kalibbala's wonderful story with readers. kalibbala is a journalist in kampala, uganda. in her weekly column for a national newspaper, her focus is on stories of homeless children - in an effort to reunite these kids with family members, if at all possible. kalibbala seems like a very altruistic person. she is not even remotely well off, yet becomes personally involved in many of these children's lives - securing medical care, housing, schooling, families... and often takes children in herself. kalibbala works long hours and travels great distances, all in huge-hearted service to the children. (seriously... because of her financial situation, she lives a couple of hours away from kampala, so makes that commute each day, and often has to travel (ruggedly) to remote villages hundreds of kilometres away during the course of one working day. sometimes, if she's lucky, she manages a 2 or 3 of hours of sleep at home in a night.) a reviewer in publishers weekly said this of kalibbala, "Her personality and implacable determination mark every anecdote, most of which radiate an essential optimism even when the ending is not unqualifiedly happy. " and it is absolutely true. in this same review, it is noted "This is deeply researched personal journalism, but the focus is so close that a broader context—whether of Uganda’s history, the African AIDS crisis, or the struggles of developing countries in general—rarely comes through. Yu’s intense close-up on her charismatic heroine results in an inspirational narrative but neglects that story’s dense, complicated background." and i very much agree here. while i did appreciate this book very much, i constantly felt like something was missing, and wanted more depth to the issues the city and country are experiencing. there is a root to the abandoned and homeless children of kampala and i feel an exploration of these concerns would have really complemented the narrative. my quibbles aside, i am very glad to have learned about gladys kalibbala, and the incredible work she is doing in uganda.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    There are so many painful stories told in this book that it took me a long, long time to get through it. Ultimately though one is left with a feeling of hope. Gladys is a marvelous person. Received this book in a goodreads giveaway. Popsugar 2018: a book by an author of a different ethnicity than you

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ruth Woodman York

    I received this book in a giveaway on Goodreads. It was interesting, heartbreaking, humbling and enjoyable, all rolled into one book. The stories of what one woman, of little means, has done to aid those she doesn't even know, are amazing. The dangers those in other countries face, in just day to day living, is astonishing. This book will definitely make you feel fortunate for your circumstances. I received this book in a giveaway on Goodreads. It was interesting, heartbreaking, humbling and enjoyable, all rolled into one book. The stories of what one woman, of little means, has done to aid those she doesn't even know, are amazing. The dangers those in other countries face, in just day to day living, is astonishing. This book will definitely make you feel fortunate for your circumstances.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Amy Morgan

    I am giving this book 4 stars mainly because of the story itself. I am not sure if this was translated but the writing for me was not superb so perhaps if it was translated it just did not come over as well as it should have. Having said that, the story of Gladys was many things. It was heroic, heartbreaking, courageous, inspiring, frustrating and thought provoking. This woman, a poor reporter from Uganda with nothing to gain for herself champions these poor lost, abandoned and/or unwanted child I am giving this book 4 stars mainly because of the story itself. I am not sure if this was translated but the writing for me was not superb so perhaps if it was translated it just did not come over as well as it should have. Having said that, the story of Gladys was many things. It was heroic, heartbreaking, courageous, inspiring, frustrating and thought provoking. This woman, a poor reporter from Uganda with nothing to gain for herself champions these poor lost, abandoned and/or unwanted children. Even when it costs her more than she has physically, emotionally and monetarily she does not give up on these children because she believes they deserve more. The story begins with a newspaper column highlighting these lost and abandoned children, trying to reunite them with their families. The fight that Gladys puts up for her "kids" is a miracle and a blessing that they never could have expected and one that some of them don't deserve. But she never loses faith and never gives up. The lengths Gladys goes to for her children, and often their families after they are reunited is awe inspiring. This is a story of one incredible and unique human being that the world could only be so lucky to have more people like her.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Alison

    Gladys Kalibbala a woman who does not have a lot of formal education, but has a big heart, and has a drive to keep going, like no other. The author, after having spent time with Gladys, relays these stories about the children that Gladys has help and we get to see the love Gladys has for the children of her country. Gladys works for a local paper, in Uganda as a reporter writing an article called “Lost and Abandoned,” She is different from other reporters there as she makes and effort even though Gladys Kalibbala a woman who does not have a lot of formal education, but has a big heart, and has a drive to keep going, like no other. The author, after having spent time with Gladys, relays these stories about the children that Gladys has help and we get to see the love Gladys has for the children of her country. Gladys works for a local paper, in Uganda as a reporter writing an article called “Lost and Abandoned,” She is different from other reporters there as she makes and effort even though she hardly has money of her own to try and find the families of the children that she writes about and whom no one has come to claim. Until she is able to find out more about these children and why they were abandoned, or ran away in the first place, she finds a nurturing environment where they can stay. She is always calling in favors, for the little bit of donations she receives, which doesn't go a long way when you never give up on a child and through the years are trying to give each one a sense of purpose, or a ride back home to find out what got them here in the first place. She is loved by all of the children, and they all call her Mamma. Even though some of the stories are sad, we see how these children are resourceful and in want of a better life and education. Well worth a read. I would like to thank NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

  6. 5 out of 5

    M.

    A very hard to read story of the children of Uganda.

  7. 5 out of 5

    David Schwartz

    The story of Gladys and how she cares for lost and abandoned children in Kampala, Uganda is an inspirational story beautifully told. The people you meet in Jessica Yu's wonderful narrative will stay with you long after you finish. The story of Gladys and how she cares for lost and abandoned children in Kampala, Uganda is an inspirational story beautifully told. The people you meet in Jessica Yu's wonderful narrative will stay with you long after you finish.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jane Yeasted

    What a testimony of a woman with convictions & turned them into action with a hugh heart. The book blessed me. Maybe not the most outstanding writing but a moving true story.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Sharon

    Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and NetGalley provided me with an electronic copy of Garden of the Lost and Abandoned: The Extraordinary Story of One Ordinary Woman and the Children She Saves. I was under no obligation to review this book and my opinion is freely given. Garden of the Lost and Abandoned is the story of Gladys Kalibbala, a part time journalist on a mission to help the children living on the streets of Uganda. Author of a newspaper column called “Lost and Abandoned,” Gladys has developed Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and NetGalley provided me with an electronic copy of Garden of the Lost and Abandoned: The Extraordinary Story of One Ordinary Woman and the Children She Saves. I was under no obligation to review this book and my opinion is freely given. Garden of the Lost and Abandoned is the story of Gladys Kalibbala, a part time journalist on a mission to help the children living on the streets of Uganda. Author of a newspaper column called “Lost and Abandoned,” Gladys has developed a reputation among the police and other officials that she is the point person with regards finding the families of these lost children. Using her connections and her own money, Gladys gives what she can to keep family units together. Author Jessica Yu spent many hours shadowing Gladys Kalibbala, in an effort to gain the full picture as to the scope of Uganda's problem and this dedicated woman's response to it. The problem that I had with Garden of the Lost and Abandoned is that the book comes off more like a series of essays instead of a cohesive story. In her attempt to show how much Gladys has sacrificed for the children, the author let the facts overwhelm the emotional nature of this subject. The book should have been compelling, highlighting the issues of extreme poverty and hopelessness that leads parents to abandon their children, but I never really got the sense of urgency that would have propelled the story forward. Gladys Kalibbala is a remarkable woman, working tirelessly for others and giving everything she has to save one more child. Her altruistic ways should be an inspiration to readers of Garden of the Lost and Abandoned.

  10. 5 out of 5

    BMR, LCSW

    This is the story of a woman who dedicates her life to the lost and abandoned children in her area of Uganda. Amazing, heartbreaking, and sobering to see how marginally some people exist (because they can't afford to really "live"). Children are lost or abandoned for many reasons, all of them desperate and sad. I would have liked for the author to include contact information for some of the orphanages and homes mentioned in the book. I'm sure people would like to send necessities like soap, shoes This is the story of a woman who dedicates her life to the lost and abandoned children in her area of Uganda. Amazing, heartbreaking, and sobering to see how marginally some people exist (because they can't afford to really "live"). Children are lost or abandoned for many reasons, all of them desperate and sad. I would have liked for the author to include contact information for some of the orphanages and homes mentioned in the book. I'm sure people would like to send necessities like soap, shoes, socks, underwear, and toiletries to the kids (especially the girls who desperately need supplies for their monthly menses). Recommended for anyone who cares about the fate of children.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sue

    Gladys Kalibbala works as a journalist at New Vision writing weekly articles on the lost and abandoned children of Kampala and the surrounding area in Uganda. But she doesn't stop with just exposing their stories, hoping that families will recognize their children and come forward. Certain ones grip her in a way that she needs to step in and help, going that extra mile to get them into temporary facilities and schooling. This is a collection of the stories of her work and the children that she Gladys Kalibbala works as a journalist at New Vision writing weekly articles on the lost and abandoned children of Kampala and the surrounding area in Uganda. But she doesn't stop with just exposing their stories, hoping that families will recognize their children and come forward. Certain ones grip her in a way that she needs to step in and help, going that extra mile to get them into temporary facilities and schooling. This is a collection of the stories of her work and the children that she sought to help. Tremendous read of a woman with few resources trying to make life better for the children on the streets by getting them off the streets. I hope that she is still able to continue the work. Applause for this Good Samaritan.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Reem Mohsen

    Gladys Kalibbala is an amazing woman, using the opportunity to begin writing for a newspaper to begin rescuing lost and abandoned children by seeking out their families or others who will again be able to give these children loving homes. Jessica Yu's account of her years shadowing Gladys and learning both her story and those of some of the many children she has helped is riveting and human. As others have mentioned, there are times when the stories seem like they could have come from the pages Gladys Kalibbala is an amazing woman, using the opportunity to begin writing for a newspaper to begin rescuing lost and abandoned children by seeking out their families or others who will again be able to give these children loving homes. Jessica Yu's account of her years shadowing Gladys and learning both her story and those of some of the many children she has helped is riveting and human. As others have mentioned, there are times when the stories seem like they could have come from the pages of one of the Ladies Number 1 Detective Agency stories. But these are real occurrences and Garden of the Lost and Abandoned gives us a glimpse of the too often hard lives of children lost and wondering city streets with no one, other than Gladys and some of the kindly officers at local police precincts, to even see them. Engagingly written, full of a narrative that reminds us of how even one person can make a difference in the lives of so many, this is a book I highly recommend.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Cybercrone

    This was the best read in a long time. A woman who writes a weekly newspaper column about lost and abandoned children dedicates herself to the cause of trying to obtain education, healthcare and a future for those whose relatives she cannot find. Rising above the disappointments to her faith in certain people when they abused her good heart, learning the politics of 'going along to get along' and hating them, this woman changes the lives of many children. This book should be a must-read for anyone This was the best read in a long time. A woman who writes a weekly newspaper column about lost and abandoned children dedicates herself to the cause of trying to obtain education, healthcare and a future for those whose relatives she cannot find. Rising above the disappointments to her faith in certain people when they abused her good heart, learning the politics of 'going along to get along' and hating them, this woman changes the lives of many children. This book should be a must-read for anyone going into international aid work.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Maribeth Balda-westlund

    Inspiring and heartbreaking at the same time. A journalist Gladys Kalibbala, works tirelessly to make life better for children on the streets in Kampala, Uganda. Her determination and persistence saves so many children as she advocates for their care and searches to reunite families. She has created a network of individuals who support her cause and find a way under challenging circumstances. The world needs more Gladys's. Thank you Jessica Yu for sharing her story with us. Inspiring and heartbreaking at the same time. A journalist Gladys Kalibbala, works tirelessly to make life better for children on the streets in Kampala, Uganda. Her determination and persistence saves so many children as she advocates for their care and searches to reunite families. She has created a network of individuals who support her cause and find a way under challenging circumstances. The world needs more Gladys's. Thank you Jessica Yu for sharing her story with us.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jeanne

    Can one woman make a difference in the world? Yes. Gladys Kalibbala is saving the lost and abandoned children of Uganda one child at a time and making a huge difference in the lives of entire villages. Her selfless struggle for those with no voice or family of their own is an inspiring story. Thank you NetGalley for the advanced copy of this book.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Margo Tanenbaum

    I read this inspirational book before a recent trip to Uganda. It is a very moving story of a Ugandan reporter, Gladys, who has taken it upon herself to try to re-unite lost children in this country of many orphans with relatives. This is a book which will make you feel good about the human spirit and capacity to love.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Eryn Lynum

    This is a beautifully written book. The way it carries several stories and characters throughout, revisiting them at just the right moments is brilliant. Having spent time in Africa, it was refreshing to revisit the imagery through the storytelling in Garden of the Lost and Abandoned. This book is extremely well written, with some shock factor from the stories, and many heartfelt moments.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Rrshively

    For Women's History Month I read this book about a woman currently living in Uganda who works to help and save lost and abandoned children in her country of Uganda. Her first priority is reuniting the child with a family member, but if that can't happen, she tries to find a place for them in a boarding school. For Women's History Month I read this book about a woman currently living in Uganda who works to help and save lost and abandoned children in her country of Uganda. Her first priority is reuniting the child with a family member, but if that can't happen, she tries to find a place for them in a boarding school.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Hansen

    For someone who lived in Uganda this was even more compelling than for the average reader. I had a greater sense of the areas she described in these stories of these children and had seen similar stories with different names. I found it hopeful to see how much one person could accomplish armed with compassion for others even in the midst of a life filled with their own struggles.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    The children The abounded The poverty - All out of Kampala This is not a pretty picture, especially since it concentrates on children. This is not a feel good book, but is exceptionally well written.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jen Juenke

    I loved this book. I was fascinated with Gladys story and all that she does for the children and for the family unit as a whole. What a tireless and wonderful human being. Many stories were so heart breaking,,,,especially Trevor. But Gladys works tirelessly.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Dilu Namaratne

    A beautiful book showing the hardships Gladys Kalibbala faces and how she helps the children and women she finds. It's a beautiful story portraying how selfless she is and how much love is filled in her heart. It's sad, funny and filled with emotions. A beautiful book showing the hardships Gladys Kalibbala faces and how she helps the children and women she finds. It's a beautiful story portraying how selfless she is and how much love is filled in her heart. It's sad, funny and filled with emotions.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    The story of a courageous, inspiring woman in Uganda who helped many lost and abandoned children.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Lewestover

    Interesting story of the work of Gladys Kalibbala, advocate for lost and abandoned children in Kampala, Uganda -- a testament that one individual CAN make a difference, if they so choose.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Dianna

    I found the writing style a bit unstructured for my taste and that made reading this story difficult but the story itself was good, interesting and uplifting.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    True tale of hope and perseverance.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Elisabeth

    To quote a friend: "There is so much sadness in the world." I wish there had been some pictures. To quote a friend: "There is so much sadness in the world." I wish there had been some pictures.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    An amazing true story of one woman's unique way of reconnecting lost children to their families. Very compelling and humbling. An amazing true story of one woman's unique way of reconnecting lost children to their families. Very compelling and humbling.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Adriane

    Author paints such a seemingly accurate picture of her subject, the life she leads, and the people she encounters. An amazing inspiratory story.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    Beautifully told story, not always an easy one. But my faith in humanity was reaffirmed.

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