After a year, central Africa has finally started to feel like home to Anne, a human-rights activist from California. Deeply committed to helping the strife-torn nation of Burundi during its first democratic elections, Anne has also begun a serious affair with Jean-Pierre, a government official allied with the Tutsi ruling class. But when the election brings the rival Hutus to power, violence breaks out, leaving thousands of people dead, and laying bare disturbing secrets about Anne’s lover and his family. She reluctantly returns to California, only to discover troubling secrets in her own family.

As she struggles with the moral implications of all she has learned, Anne must reconcile complex conflicting claims of duty and love. The True Sources of the Nile unfolds like a passionately felt love affair that initially obscures the world around it, then comes to brilliantly illuminate it.

It is often assumed among the readers of novels that “political” or “global” kinds of stories are written by men, for men, and “domestic” or “relationship” stories are written by women, for women. This has never been entirely true, and now a first novel by a woman has arrived set in Burundi, involving a great sexual passion and love affair. At the root of this affair is an enduring politics – a politics of Africa, full of murder, history, and vengeance, a fire fueling the love and a disease destroying it as well…The True Sources of the Nile is a complex novel, clarified by a confident and wonderfully readable language. It’s full of energy and place and fact, a romance, a tragedy, and a vital history lesson all in one.
— Vince Passaro, O, The Oprah Magazine
This stunning first novel, set in contemporary Africa, begs to be compared to Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible... yet is distinctive enough to be in a class of its own…This is much more than a political treatise: it is a story of sexual obsession and how we merge family values and relationships with career and humanitarian goals. Stone...brings an authentic voice to this novel of life-and-death issues.
— Library Journal
Shades of Graham Greene, this first novel is both verdant and ominous...although The True Sources of the Nile is concerned with the greater issues of passion and unimpeded violence, it is also a meditation on truth…full of engaging parallels and paradoxes, the novel is an intricate study of rationality and its mirror image, rationalization. It is, in short, the very story, both literary and popular in its appeal, that makes you wish Oprah hadn’t given up bookmongering. It’s a novel with something for everyone, a sexy story set against questions of family and tribal loyalty and an almost palpable sense of contemporary Africa with its ‘reddish scent of the dust, the mango and papaya tropical smells, a haunting sense of human tension and of growing things and of languorous obstinate decay.
— Miami Herald
The True Sources of the Nile is as rich and complicated as life itself. Few writers can pull off what Sarah Stone manages triumphantly: an intricate tapestry in which joy and love and triumph lie side by side with horror and injustice, each strand convincing and clear and yet the whole beautifully blended. This is a dazzling novel.
— Andrea Barrett, author of The Air We Breathe and Archangel
Sarah Stone writes in a supple, lyrical style about matters of life and death in this novel, and at its heart the book is about people who will not tell – will not admit – what they know to be true. At once a passionate love story and an accounting of political warfare in Africa, The True Sources of the Nile manages to show how closely allied terror and love can sometimes be. Few Americans have witnessed the terrible and beautiful lives of Africans as closely as this narrator has, and as a result this book is hard to put down and impossible to forget.
— Charles Baxter, author of Saul and Patsy and Gryphon: New and Selected Stories
Sarah Stone has written a novel of civil and domestic war, of tribal and familial violence–all the more passionate because intermingled: love and death flailing at each other like the pair at the erotically charged center of The True Source of the Nile. Whether she writes of San Francisco or Burundi, check-ups or check-points, nightmares or dreams, she does so with authority and in prose honed machete-edged sharp: a vivid, heart-stopping tale.
— Nicholas Delbanco, author of Old Scores and The Years
The True Sources of the Nile is a vibrant, sensual, moving portrayal of a country in crisis and a heroine in conflict. Sarah Stone has a wonderful gift for conjuring both characters and landscapes onto the page. This is a splendid and engrossing novel.
— Margot Livesey, author of The House on Fortune Street and The Flight of Gemma Hardy: A Novel
A ghastly scene in Sarah Stone’s fascinating first novel, The True Sources of the Nile, starkly illustrates the saying that one death is a tragedy and one million are a statistic... Stone keeps all of these plots and subplots remarkably in focus... Stone’s style is clear and unadorned, but interspersed with descriptive gems... Most people will never find themselves in the center of genocide, but Stone makes us feel the horror of it, even in the midst of the everyday.
— BookPage
Sarah Stone’s fine first novel is about a love affair between Anne Copeland, a 37-year-old Californian doing human rights work in central Africa and Jean-Pierre Bukimana, a highly placed Burundian official…Things are not what they appear to be either in Anne’s family situation in America or in Jean-Pierre’s past in Burundi. Their lives are locked into circumstance, even when love seems strongest and most free.
— The New York Times
Stone tackles big themes – race, love, family, loyalty – and writes with the authority that comes from having spent two yeas in Burundi…Jean-Pierre and Anne are tormented by whether they made the right choices in life-and-death decisions…Stone’s triumph is that she enriches her story with grand ideas that funnel into just one: what is most important in this life?
— USA Today
Africa in the American imagination is the very embodiment of the exotic….Stone conveys Burundi’s otherness with quiet authority…Anne and Jean-Pierre…rise far above sterortypes. They are far too multifaceted, too complicated for that. Stone makes their relationship echo the tempestuous country where they meet and fall in love. And she places them in a story that is fast-paced, spiced with intrigue, and powered by the universal language of love. Exotic stuff, to be sure, yet as familiar as ‘Romeo and Juliet.’
— Newsday
A compelling tale of deep emotions flows through ‘Nile’…Deft perceptions and deep emotions, set against a real world most Westerners know little about, create a pleasing and promising first novel.
— Boston Globe
Stone’s sentences are fluid, balanced, and precise, especially in their descriptions of life in a hostile environment. This was a very satisfying, thought-provoking novel that can be read on several different levels, from a fast page-turner to an important novel about our humanity.
— Betty Renner, Merritt Bookstore, Millbrook, NY (Booksense76 selection)
[An] ambitious and thoroughly absorbing first novel...Stone’s ability to create compelling characters is such that each time someone lies, the reader is jolted... full of engaging parallels and paradoxes, the novel is an intricate study of rationality and its mirror image, rationalization…an intricate study of family and tribal loyalty...
— Publisher's Weekly