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ZEBRA: Friends by Fate. Enemies by Destiny by Jill Wallace is a Salute Military pick #fiction

Title: ZEBRA: Friends by Fate. Enemies by Destiny

Author: Jill Wallace

Genre: Historical Fiction

Book Blurb:

A young white boy and a Zulu teen grow up together, building an extraordinary friendship as they explore the rugged Drakensberg mountains around a remote South African hotel during the apartheid era. Jock and Papin forge an indelible bond while learning to love and appreciate each other’s cultures. Despite whispers from intolerant guests, the boys are oblivious to the consequences of their friendship. “There goes the zebra,” guests remark, claiming they can't tell where the white boy ends and the black boy begins. But the boys’ friendship is strong enough to conquer all—until society’s impossible expectations wrench them apart, leaving bitter disappointment and soul-deep wounds that will not heal.A decade later, these long-lost friends converge on opposite sides of a harrowing battlefield, one a reluctant soldier, the other a passionate freedom fighter. Their intimate knowledge of the other’s way of life could be the very tools that save them…or destroy them. And an unimaginable choice will put Jock and Papin’s once unbreakable bond to the ultimate test.Jill Wallace, author of the multi-award-winning World War II novel War Serenade, brings together a fascinating coming-of-age story with a compelling tale of human connection in Zebra.


Every time the “road” challenged the Bedford, Lieut heard muffled “Whooooas” pushing through the closed Perspex window to the back of the truck. He could imagine his boys’ bodies lifting up and staying suspended in the air for a millisecond before slamming down hard onto wooden benches. Ow! He imagined them rubbing new bruises on not-so-new tailbones as cursing and moaning pulsed into the front of the cab.

Like any good caretaker, Lieut cocked his head to listen to the laments of each and then relaxed. All seven at the back were accounted for.

The next outcrop came too soon, and the truck stalled. Cairns swore and jumped out in a flash. His head quickly disappeared under the dust-encrusted khaki hood.

Muffled bitching from the back and the incessant clicking of the bushman with the bird’s-eye view became background noise as Lieut’s eagle eyes found an unusually large pride of lions about a hundred yards away.

The Bedford had stalled in a prime spot for viewing. If only they were on safari and he could immerse himself into nature’s brilliant performance. But this was a war zone. At least four fifths of his senses had to remain on high alert. Bugger! Thirty or so of the glorious beasts, all sizes and ages, blended beige and gold into a ledge of low-hanging rocks dotted with long, wild grass.

Being gifted with this rare sight, Lieut’s chest unexpectedly filled with gratitude.

After a few seconds, he recognized the lions had made him aware he could still feel. Now that was something.

War and man’s shenanigans were of no interest to the lions. Man’s noise had been part of their existence for too long to deter nature’s necessary course.

Some big cats stretched languidly, increasing their already incredible length. A cub suffered a necessary bath from her mother’s slow tongue, and a few teenage lions played rambunctiously. Others dotted the rocks in a Sphinx-like tableau. Bloody remains of their easy-prey buffet spread across the rocks and spilled over onto the long, dry grass, crushing it. The mutilated carcass was nothing but an occasional black and white stripe dotted here and there. A zebra. Poor thirsty bugger had no chance at all.

Zebra. A thousand Technicolor images and full sensory overload flooded his head but left disappointment souring his tongue, and Lieut was relieved when a cackle of insane laughter brought him to.

A clan of mottled hyenas stood on skinny legs overlooking the big cats’ picnic, laughing and waiting. When the pride was too sleepy and too full to care, the cackle would swarm in on the carcass and crunch the bones with mighty jaws until they’d had their fill. Then nature’s undertakers—the vultures—would swoop in and peck away relentlessly, and finally the insects, ants, termites and spiders would consume every morsel till the dry earth left no signs of the zebra’s demise. Only grass flattened by massive bodies would mark for days where the lions had feasted.

A humongous male lion yawned, a sound so loud, it made the Bedford shake. Lieut imagined the mighty beast’s distended stomach pulling down heavy eyelids, begging for a post-feast sleep.

Then the lion used his five-hundred-pound bulk to bash a less ferocious half-brother out of the way to claim the last remaining prize: the sparse shade of the only thorn tree for many a hectare.

The driver’s door pulled open, and Cairns’s grin confirmed his mechanical prowess. He jumped back in and powered up the metal beast, touched the photo of his cutie and used his whole upper body to tango with the steering wheel and urge the brute forward.

He looked to Lieut like a little kid driving a tractor, but gobbled up by the army straight out of school, Cairns was nearly at the end of his two-year military stint. Like all of the boys of his time, there was no alternative to being thrust into his country’s war as soon as he matriculated.

When the army called, whether you were getting married or your mother was dying, you reported for duty or you went to jail. And after your two mandatory years, your career could still be interrupted at any time. The government owned you. Though your company “held your position,” in the three or four months you were away on army duty, your once-indispensable business cog had been replaced and forced to turn without you, in the inevitable wheels of progress.

Now that would successfully screw up a career and a marriage— and all for a whopping nine cents a day and no benefits.

He mentally slapped himself and thought of the nine men under his command. He owed them his freshest eyes and his sharpest awareness. Don’t let resentment screw it up. Focus. Keep them safe.

A huge dip in the uneven road caused another collective complaint from the top and back of the cab in three languages. “Cairns, I hope you are not considering driving for a living after this, because you stink at it,” said Lieut. Then he grinned at the youngster. “But—God help us—you stink less than the girls in the back, so keep up the good work. Let’s go!”

Cairns’s grin was replaced by his navigating tongue a mile later.

“This desolate part of the country is the second enemy we’re fighting,” Lieut said.

“Shit, Lieut. It’s like steering a Boer bull by the horns.”

“Just keep your eyes on the dirt we call a road.” Lieut pointed to the visor. “That your girl?”

“Yes. Cathy.” Cairns grinned. “Been my girl since middle of high school. I’ll marry her one day.”

“Stay safe for her. Drought to animals is like war to humans. It separates the hardy from the weak. Be sure to be hardy, Cairns, so you can go home to your girl in one piece.”

A noise his ears were tuned for came from above, and Lieut’s palm went up to silence Cairns’s smart retort. He craned his neck up to Boesman, whose hands painted a thousand pictures and clicks like jolts of electricity zinged from his mouth. And then came the bash on the metal roof.

“STOP!” shouted Lieut, and Cairns’s quick brake-pump created a domino effect.

As “Whoooooas” erupted from the back, Lieut felt a cold shiver wrack his frame.

It had begun. His team was about to sample their first bitter taste of war.

Buy Links (including Goodreads and BookBub):

What makes your featured book a must-read?

It’s a searing, soaring, heart-breaking, heart-warming coming-of-age story about an unusual friendship between a Zulu and a white boy in South Africa during apartheid. It's intended to be enjoyed by anyone who ever had a true friend or wished they did.

Giveaway –

Enter to win a $20 Amazon gift card:

Open Internationally. You must have a valid Amazon US or Amazon Canada account to win. Runs May 23 – May 31, 2023. Winner will be drawn on June 1, 2023.

Author Biography:

Jill Wallace was born and bred in South Africa, and lived the second half of her life in America. She feels like the African baobab with roots that look like branches. Like the confused “Upside Down Tree” she no longer knows where the South African ends and the American begins. She hopes it affords her some degree of complexity. A girl can always hope :o)

In South Africa, Jill was a contemporary dancer and a PRO for a hotel and a shopping center conglomerate. She flew as an “international air hostess” for South African Airways, enjoyed 6 continents and hundreds of adventures. She married her dream man, Athol, a rugby player who makes her laugh. They moved to America with the promise of a career that never happened, and Jill inherited her 2 heart-children full time in a strange, new country where together they found compromise, laughter and love.

In the U.S. Jill’s been a bad waitress and an excellent (but inconspicuous) movie extra for “Pretty Woman” director Garry Marshall, and a Realtor for 28 years. As a screenplay, "War Serenade" (which was inspired by a true story) was twice optioned for a movie. As her first novel, “War Serenade” garnered multiple literary awards and a Rone and Readers Choice for the audio book version.

Her second novel "Zebra" is inspired by Athol's life. It’s a searing, soaring, heart-breaking, heart-warming coming-of-age story about an unusual friendship between a Zulu and a white boy in South Africa during apartheid. It's intended to be enjoyed by anyone who ever had a true friend or wished they did.

As immigrants they’ve been humbled by poverty and blessed by kindness. Proud to be an American, her heart is strongly African and her books will always reflect Jill’s plight as a baobab tree.

Learn more about the author and her books at and join Jill's Club Untamed for titillating nuggets and giveaways.

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May 26, 2023

Probably cookout with my family!


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May 23, 2023

Thank you, Jill, for sharing your book in our Salute Military Bookish Event!

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