September 25, 2012 Ted Neill picked up a knife to cut his wrists open and kill himself. Post hospitalization and treatment for major depressive disorder, he wrote Two Years of Wonder, a memoir based on his journey towards recovery. In it, he examines the experience that left him with such despair: living and working for two years at an orphanage for children with HIV/AIDS in Nairobi, Kenya.
Neill interweaves his story with the experiences of Oliver, Miriam, Ivy, Harmony, Tabitha, Sofie, Nea, and other children, exploring their own paths of trauma, survival, and resilience. In prose that is by turns poetic, confessional, and brutal, Neill with the children he comes alongside, strive to put the pieces of their fractured lives back together as they search for meaning and connection, each trying to reclaim their humanity and capacity to love in the face of inexplicable suffering and loss.
About the Author: In addition to his time living in Kenya, Ted Neill has worked for CARE and World Vision International in the fields of health, education, and child development. He has written for The Washington Post and published multiple novels. His share of proceeds from Two Years of Wonder are donated to the children and families featured in its pages as well as Little Rock Early Childhood Development Center in Kibera: http://littlerockkenya.org/newsite/ Little Rock was founded in 2003 in order to fill a gap in services for children with special needs in the poorest communities in Kenya. Little Rock provides crucial services through trained staff and volunteers in an inclusive, accessible environment. Their work is nothing short of inspiring. Places like Little Rock are all too rare in Kenya. They specialize in supporting children with developmental, neurological, and physical difficulties as well as orphans and children who are affected or infected by HIV/AIDS.
Praise for Two Years of Wonder:
“As the author, even Neill asks if the world needs another book about a white man ‘losing and finding himself’ in Africa. In the case of Two Years of Wonder, the answer is an emphatic ‘Yes.’ With unflinching honesty, Ted shows us the inner workings of a mind in the grips of severe depression. It is a harrowing read and a must-read if you know someone grappling with mental illness much less the complexities and contradictions of aid work.”
- Rasheed Newson, author of The Singletons of Ashmount and Bring a Shovel and a Gun.
“There are two urgent reasons to read Ted Neill's book, Two Years of Wonder. First, it informs us of the grave plight of children infected and affected by HIV/AIDS in Africa. It would take so little for us to help, and it starts with awareness. Read Ted's book if you believe that all life is sacred and to be respected and protected. Second, this book is especially important for change agents who sometimes feel frustration with how difficult it is to do lasting good in the world. Ted has been there. His successes, and also his failures, are instructive, and ultimately inspiring.”
- Jack Hoban, USMC and author of The Ethical Warrior.
“Blending incisive self-reflection and fictionalized biography, Ted Neill’s Two Years of Wonder deconstructs our comfortable preconceptions about Africa, AIDS orphans, volunteerism, and the world of international aid. Told through a shifting kaleidoscope of stories, Neill’s book constantly tumbles truth to provide his readers with a new view of the world as a complex, ambiguous, and interconnected whole.”
- Tara Sullivan, author of Golden Boy and The Bitter Side of Sweet.
What is most evident in Two Years of Wonder, is the transforming power of caring human presence. No great fixes are offered in the stories of vulnerable Kenyan children, no conclusive plan for solving enormous social problems. But this book offers hope. Through story-telling about the lives he encounters, Ted Neill provides an honest view of what it means to respectfully bear witness to the suffering of others and our own. The writing is candid, clear and provides encouragement that coming along side another person to live daily life together, even for a short season, can make a profound difference.
- Ruby Takushi, Director of Programs, Recovery Cafe Seattle.
“In Two Years of Wonder, Ted Neill takes his readers halfway around the world to laugh with, cry for, and be deeply moved by children in a Kenyan school and orphanage. Through engaging prose, Neill tells compelling stories that come full circle. For most of us, Two Years of Wonder is an inspiring read. It is a must read for anyone post-college or post-retirement considering volunteer work in an African orphanage or school.”
- Dean Owen, author of November 22, 1963: Reflections on the Life, Assassination, and Legacy of John F. Kennedy.