Book Review: Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures: True Stories from a War Zone

Authors: Kenneth Cain, Heidi Postlewait, and Andrew Thomson

Reviewed by: Faith Oneya

Available in local Kenyan  bookshops and on Amazon

Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures is the memoir of the interwoven lives of three  civilians working for the UN and the Red Cross who first meet in Cambodia and whose idealistic perceptions of the war and the UN missions get questioned over and over as they are repeatedly thrown in the front-line of the atrocities of war. The story reveals the corruption, greed and indifference to human rights  that eats the at the UN.

The devastatingly honest account of their experience in different war zones  is vividly told in the humorously and cleverly, making one conclude that this is one of those rare un-put-downables. This book will stick like glue to your hands.

The story begins is a laid-back fashion, perhaps in a bid to emphasize on the complacent lives that the three young people lived before they sought to find the “bigger purpose” in their lives. One of them, Heidi, was in a lukewarm marriage, Ken in an Ivy League College studying law(and questioning it), Andrew in medical college.

Amidst the tales of the warfront are their tales of romance brewing , lust bulging and deception boiling. The brutality of the war is brought to bear in the most candid way possible and the UN peace-keeping missions are also brought under the microscope in this daring book.

Nothing is left to chance in the description of what the war left behind.Andrew, the doctor, captures one scene at Port-au-Price where he had been tasked to visit the morgues in order to ascertain the number and causes of deaths.

“From the deep gashes, it looks as though they tried to hack his head off with an ax or machete and when they could,nt quite do it, just threw him in the surf.Microrganisms are still feeding on what’s left of his neck.”

On the Rwandan genocide, Ken says this of his first visit ;

“The entire country smells of decomposing flesh . The sickly sweet smell is nauseating and trips the gag refex. It gets onto your clothes, into your hair,onto the sheets, the kitchen utensils…”

Now, for those questioning when the emergency sex was had and by whom, here is the answer. All the emergency sex can be attributed to the female lead in this “reality show” Heidi, who seems to relish every opportunity she gets to sample the local male delights.Some of the escapades seem less of an emergency than the author would like us to believe, given that her male counterparts are more restrained or perhaps choose to stay mum over the periods  they had emergency sex.

The revelations in the book will horrify you.  This book will entertain you. You will laugh and cry in equal measure at this story of  the strength and elasticity of the human spirit and the power of friendship.



Author: Faith Oneya

Lover of the written and spoken word.

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