Mountain High Press announces the book launch of NO ORDINARY LIFE, an inside account by newlywed Diplomats on Assignment in Apartheid South Africa.
At 29, Mary and her husband, a special agent, embark on a two-year assignment to the U.S. Embassy in South Africa. Working with Ambassador Princeton Lyman during a critical time when a continued campaign of economic sanctions from the international community has pressured President F.W. de Klerk to negotiate with recently-freed Nelson Mandela to end apartheid with the end goal of a democratic government. Uncertainty about the future hangs like a cloud cover over the South African heat.
It is into this powder keg environment that Mary and Patrick arrive in Cape Town in August 1992 on their first diplomatic mission as a couple. A Special Agent in Diplomatic Security, Patrick must protect the Ambassador and the American community. Negotiations have broken down again after the latest massacre, the black townships are embroiled in gang warfare, and Americans lives have been threatened. Patrick immerses himself in work while Mary is left to find her way.
Stripped of her name and identity, Mary—Mrs. McGhee to the State Department—is denied permission to work due to the current high risk. She refuses to be shuffled into passive domesticity as a ‘trailing spouse’. Mary lands a job at the American Embassy. But the unrelenting stress of Patrick’s job along with the constant threat of danger for both he and Mary—including surveillance 24/7 by National Party spies—takes a toll on the marriage. A growing malaise settles between them.
When she meets with the local township matriarch about a USAID project, she’s chased out by a mob chanting One Settler, One Bullet. Mary is shaken to the core. The American community is on edge. After yet another massacre, Patrick insists Mary learn to shoot. But no gun can protect her when the Hard Rock Cafe is bombed killing and injuring many.
A dozen times she makes plans to go home, yet she’s aware of what it means to be part of this watershed moment in history, if the country can make it to an election before imploding. The whole world watches the drama evolve.
Mary’s story unfolds in not only in Cape Town, but in the wilds of Kruger Park Game Reserve, the beauty of the wine country of the Western Province, and the captivating Atlantic coastal peninsula to the tip of Cape of Good Hope. In these stunning settings, she and Patrick find each other time and again while exploring the beautiful South African countryside.
This personal story of marriage in a foreign land parallels the political turmoil in Cape Town as the election draws near. As plans for the election flounder, so does her relationship with Patrick. As the country goes to the brink and is transformed, so too, Mary changes from an idealistic, naïve Midwestern girl to a mature woman committed to the mission of liberation for all South Africans, and determined to save her marriage.
“Beautifully written with candor and sensitivity, evoking the highs and lows of that period, the impact on Mary and her colleagues of constant tension and worry, and the challenges in her marriage as both she and her husband become more engrossed in their work and more deeply affected by their environment. Few memoirs have captured this interplay of the personal and the historical as well as in this work.” – Princeton Lyman, U.S. Ambassador to South Africa
“What were you doing on April 27, 1994? If you were living in South Africa at the time, you would be able to recall your day in the clearest of detail just as any American could recall their day on November 22, 1963 or September 11, 2001. Mary Byron gives us personal context for the historic events that lead to the end of Apartheid with clear accounts of both heartbreak and joy. It’s a must-read memoir that you won’t want to put down.” – L. Immel, Colorado
“Once I started Reading, I could not stop! What an adventure. I felt like I was there with Mary.” – Joanna Davidson, The Denver Post
“From page one I was drawn in to this story. Mary Byron witnessed one of the greatest moments in South African history, and captures it beautifully. Even though the circumstances were extraordinary, I could totally relate to Mary as a woman struggling to keep her life in balance between marriage, career, and a world in chaos.” – A. W.
“Gritty, extraordinarily down-to-earth page turner, that will leave you wanting more.” – Beverly Schroeder, U.S. Department of State, Foreign Service
To read more about personal insights of diplomacy, adventure and peace during this important period in South Africa’s history, please click below.
Enjoy The Journey!
Author contact for appearances, book club events and signings – please go to to Author@NoOrdinaryLifeMemoir.com.
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