I didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I decided to read this book. It has been sitting on my shelf for almost four years now as a recommended “good read”. I finally picked it up this summer and was surprised to learn that it was a collection of short stories rather than a novel. All the stories are told from the perspective of a child. A poor innocent child living in a harsh world in one African country or another. All the stories are heart-wrenching. It’s taken me this long to read it, and I’ve had to read other books in the mean-time, because it is just too much sorrow for my one soul to bear all at once.
I strongly dislike this book even though the stories are fictitious because it reminds me how cruel and callous the world is. I turn to books to escape the news, so this particular book has not been much of an escape from current events. It causes me to shake my head in disbelief and for my soul to question “why?” What is wrong with our people? With humanity?
That is not to say that it is an awful book. In fact it’s a great book for getting me so emotionally involved and disturbed. It’s just so brutally honest. The author, Uwem Akpan, is a Nigerian Jesuit priest. From the Kenyan Maisha who is forced to prostitute herself to help feed her family, to the Nigerian siblings whose uncle plans to sell them into slavery, to the Ethiopian best friends who can no longer be friends because of religious differences, to Jubril/Gabriel grappling with his own religion during a tumultuous religious north-south Nigerian conflict that harkens back to real life Boko Haram doings, and to Monique, a Rwandan girl who finds herself in the midst of a Hutu-Tutsi conflict that hits very close to home, he draws on his experiences.
The world is a mad place indeed. I now need to read something very light, very improbable.