Sunday, January 11, 2015

We Need New Names

This is the last of my 2014 Challenge books this year.  If I am calculating correctly, I read all but two of the ones on my list.  And what a way to end.

This is a blunt, brutal book.  This story starts during a particularly violent period in the history of Zimbabwe.  The first chapter begins with a group of children. Given their thoughts and that one is pregnant, you assume they're maybe 14, 15 years old.  Then you realize they're 9 and 10.  That realization made my blood run cold.

The scene where the group tried to help their pregnant friend is enough to break your heart.

The story moves to America later, as the protagonist, Darling, unofficially immigrates.  The trauma is no longer as blatant, but it's still there, just as pervasive.  Much of the second half of the book is about Darling's transition to America, socially and culturally, and the great loss that leaving Zimbabwe represents to her.

The observations made on Darling's feelings of dislocation and the intense, exhausting pressure to send money back home were eye opening.  The same goes for the incredible differences between main stream American culture and that of Darling's.

Final call:

This one will pull you right out of your safe world, and make you very glad that you have it to return to.

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