Thursday, May 19, 2011

Tiny Sunbirds, Far Away

Looking for a good novel to curl up with during these gray rainy days? Or, perhaps you're like me, and you hoard books for Summer reading purposes all Spring? Either way Tiny Sunbirds, Far Away, is a great pick! Our Random House sales rep, Tim, recommended this book. He compared it to Cutting for Stone and Little Bee, both of which are favourites of mine. However, I think the only comparison of Blessing's story to the two other novels begins and ends at the setting, which is in Africa (Nigeria to be specific). Blessing is 12, that in-between time of girlhood and becoming a young woman. When the book opens, she is living with her older brother, Ezikiel, and her parents in a luxury apartment in Lagos. When her mother catches her father with another woman, Blessing and Ezikiel moves back to her mother's family in a small village in the Niger Delta.

Warri is a frightening place for Blessing at first. There is a cast of eccentric characters in both her maternal family and the village. The comforts that Blessing has been raised with are no longer, her mother is working day and night to support them, there is no running water or electricity. Ezikiel's asthma acts up and her kindly eccentric grandfather recommends Marmite as the solution to this and every other health problem.

It is Blessing's grandmother that begins to show her the magic of the village and rural life. Grandma is a traditional midwife and healer, who begins to apprentice Blessing. As Grandma shares her wisdom, by guiding her through a birth, or by telling traditional fables, Blessing begins to grow up and mature. She also becomes more aware of the threats to Warri's village life from the British and American oil companies, as well as threats and changes to the villages traditions.

I don't want to give much more away, however, I found this a captivating book, that is witty, wise and beautifully written. Blessing's journey into becoming a woman in a difficult life stayed with me long after I read the last page. This is a novel that will make you think deeply about life. This would also be a good choice for teenage girls.
- Bronwyn

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