"My heart stopped peacefully,
its beating grew slow and weak,
and then just -- stopped. I died young.
There is, really, only a little to tell."
Explorer Mary Kingsley ignored the narrowly circumscribed roles and rules for a Victorian young woman. She traveled to West Africa and visited places no European had ever been. She died young, and alone.
Almost one hundred years later, a young woman named Lily Austin receives a book about explorers for her fourteenth birthday, and the only female face inside belongs to Mary Kingsley. That night, something awful and unexpected befalls Lily, setting her upon a journey of personal discovery for which Kingsley becomes a kind of spiritual companion. Lily, a young playwright, creates her own version of Mary Kingsley, using a cache of letters Kingsley wrote to an unnamed reader in the future. This is a book about the different kinds of bravery with which women, then and now, have faced the world.