Other Press|May 10, 2011|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-0-159051466-5
Winner of the 2011 Costa First Novel Award.
When their mother catches their father with another woman, twelve-year-old, Blessing, and her fourteen-year-old brother, Ezikiel, are forced to leave their comfortable home in Lagos for a village in the Niger Delta, to live with their mother’s family. Without running water or electricity, Warri is at first a nightmare for Blessing. Her mother is gone all day and works suspiciously late into the night to pay the children’s school fees. Her brother, once a promising student, seems to be falling increasingly under the influence of the local group of violent teenage boys calling themselves Freedom Fighters. Her grandfather, a kind of misguided man, is trying on Islam as his new religion of choice, and is even considering the possibility of bringing in a second wife.
But Blessing’s grandmother, wise and practical, soon becomes a beloved mentor, teaching Blessing the ways of the midwife in rural Nigeria. Blessing is exposed to the horrors of genital mutilation and the devastation wrought on the environment by British and American oil companies. As Warri comes to feel like home, Blessing becomes increasingly aware of the threats to its safety, both from its unshakable but dangerous traditions and the relentless carelessness of the modern world.
TINY SUNBIRDS, FAR AWAY is the witty and beautifully written story of one family’s attempt to survive a new life they could never have imagined, struggling to find a deeper sense of identity along the way.
This was an extremely well-written book with lots of character detail. I fell in love with Blessing and her grandmother who became such good friends and shared a special bond. The family struggled through such difficult times that their ability to continue on in the face of such dire adversity was illuminating.
Blessing and her brother, Ezikiel were very close and shared every story, every happening of every day together until Ezikiel started to become interested in a group of local bad boys who seemed to have an undesirable effect on him. Blessing missed their conversations and closeness and eventually ends up losing him altogether which devastates her. Ezikiel had such high aspirations. He loved school and was going to study to become a medical doctor until being shot and missing so much school that he failed his exams. After that he lost his passion for school and became one of ‘the boys’.
Thankfully, for Blessing, her beloved Grandmother decided to teach her the old ways of becoming a mid-wife and at this time Blessing was introduced to the horrors of genital mutilation, which unfortunately, still does go on in today’s age.
At over 400 pages, TINY SUNBIRDS, FAR AWAY was a novel that captured the characters and place so very, very well that I felt like I was there. I could even taste the horrible “magic cube” soup Blessing made the first time! I will be highly recommending this book to friends.