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Tiny Sunbirds, Far Away (2011)

by Christie Watson

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3151683,568 (4.11)44
After her parents separate, Blessing's mother moves with her and her brother Ezikiel to live in a village in the Niger Delta, where Blessing gradually adjusts, but Ezikiel soon leads a dangerous life as a boy soldier.
  1. 10
    Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See (sboyte)
    sboyte: Both novels are about women in non-Western cultures dealing with difficult situations. Both books serve to immerse the reader in the cultures they are set in.
  2. 00
    Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (chazzard)
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» See also 44 mentions

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Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
Blessing is a Nigerian girl living in the Western-styled city of Lagos with her loud & boisterous father, her more reserved mother and little brother. When Blessing's father leaves the family for another wife, those he has left behind are forced to go live with Blessing's maternal grandparents. Out in a rural area, environmentally spoiled by the oil industry, fraught with vicious and deadly gangs of boys, and served by a corrupt police force, the new extended family struggles for food, medicine and their very lives in the face of the Oyinbo (White Man). Told from Blessings point-of-view, modern day Nigeria comes more into focus as tradition wrestles with twenty-first century modernity and "progress". While the portrayal of the present day African country is well executed, there is an emotional distance from the story itself, even given dramatic turns of events. So, well-written and intellectually engaging; but somewhat "surface-level" in the telling.
  Tanya-dogearedcopy | Oct 26, 2023 |
Winner of the 2011 Costa First Novel Award, Christine Watson uses a 12-year old girl to describe a broken family's departure from comfort in Lagos to poverty in the Niger Delta, where work is difficult to find and a man's word is law in the household. Blessing, her brother Ezikiel, and her mother move into her parent's compound, and have difficulty adjusting to rural life, especially where foreign oil companies are raping the resources, bribing governmental officials, and arming local guerillas. Blessing seems most adaptable, learning to become a midwife, like her Grandmother. Her brother, who suffers from allergies and asthma, has a hard time adjusting. Just as things appear to be brightening, big trouble ensues. Interesting extended family dynamics and pictorial of tensions in Nigeria. ( )
  skipstern | Jul 11, 2021 |
A very compulsive read, set in (for me) a totally alien country. As 12 year old Blessing and her asthmatic brother Ezekial are forced to leave the relative luxury of Lagos to live with her mother's family in the Niger Delta, it's a massive culture shock. Blessing narrates her story: the initial shock of fetching water and the state of the toilets; the endemic violence of the area; the oil industry and its problems. And against this the personalities - Grandfather Alhaji (quite a character); Grandma, with whom Blessing forms a bond; Grandfather's larger-than-life young second-wife, Celestine; and Mama, as she starts a new life...

Perhaps Blessing was just a tad unbelievably well-behaved and subservient, never failing to tow the line, obey and get permission.
But overall a good read that gives you an insight into this region of Nigeria. ( )
1 vote starbox | Sep 18, 2014 |
Through the eyes of Blessing, an adolescent girl, we experience the daily lives of Nigerians. Blessing and her slightly older brother Ezikiel return to their mother's home when the mother is abandoned by her unfaithful, violent husband. They move from an apartment complex to a rustic compound where there is no running water, no air conditioning, and barely any furniture. Blessing sleeps on a mattress with her mother, in a room without windows. She learns to fetch water and cook traditional foods. And, when she cannot attend school, her grandmother trains her to be a midwife. Ezikiel, who suffers from asthma, is a dedicated student, determined to be a doctor. At one point, he has to leave school because the family does not have the money for tuition. Without ruining the read, things go from bad to worse for Ezikiel.

Throughout the book, we see how the foreign exploitation of Nigeria' oil resources is destroying the land and its people. Although their grandfather, Alhaji, is an educated engineer, the English company that runs the oil company does not hire locals. The family, therefore, does not have the money needed for basics, nor for education. Without opportunity, the young men of the region are turning to gorilla warfare, but do more harm to their own people than to the oil company or the corrupt government.

In the end, Blessing has to decide if she will stay in her home country or take the opportunity to make a new life elsewhere. This is a heartrending tale, a thoroughly engaging book that creates a truer understanding of the troubles in Nigeria than the information we read in the newspapers. ( )
  bookfest | Sep 5, 2014 |
With its comprehensive look at life in the Niger Delta this is an education as well as an entertaining read. I don’t think I have ever read a book set in Nigeria that didn’t cover the oil situation, and here as well we see the economic and social injustices suffered by the local people despite such valuable natural resources in their midst. Not only that, the novel covers religion, education, childbirth, inter-racial relationships, crime, health, militants, and takes a really honest look at FGM.

The voice of the narrator, 12 year old Blessing, was good – never seeming too old for her years. I feel as though I got a really detailed picture of life in Nigeria outside of the big cities. One thing that stood out for me was the sense of resigned acceptance – the incident with the fridge, for example, and later Blessing’s statement that no goods mailed to Nigeria from Europe were likely to make it to their destination as such packages would be “too much temptation” for the postal workers, ‘even if they made it past the aircraft staff’.

As the novel approached its conclusion I wished it could have gone on for longer – some very dramatic events happen in the second half but relatively little time seemed to have been invested in them. There is probably an optimum length for a book, but if this one had been thicker I would still have been more than happy to read it. ( )
1 vote jayne_charles | Dec 23, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
Absorbing and passionate.
added by chazzard | editThe Guardian, Jane Housham (Dec 6, 2011)
 
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For the Egberongbes, who had me fall in love with Nigeria.
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Father was a loud man.
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After her parents separate, Blessing's mother moves with her and her brother Ezikiel to live in a village in the Niger Delta, where Blessing gradually adjusts, but Ezikiel soon leads a dangerous life as a boy soldier.

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