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Tiny Sunbirds, Far Away

4.05  ·  Rating Details ·  3,162 Ratings  ·  482 Reviews
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. H
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Published May 10th 2011 by Other Press (first published January 1st 2011)
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After finishing the book, I first read the biographical summary of Christi Watson, since I sensed a slight difference in approach from the other African authors.

It dawned on me why I enjoyed the humor in the book so much. It reminded me of what Alexander Fuller said in Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness about being English: "In this way, the English part of our identity registers as a void, something lacking that manifests in inherited, stereotypical characteristics: an allergy to sen
Diane S ☔
Feb 09, 2012 Diane S ☔ rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I absolutely loved it! When a writer chooses a twelve yr. old girl to be the narrator I often find problems with the characterization. Oftentimes the dialogue sounds stilted, the actions and thought not believable, but that was not the case here. Blessing, this 12 yr. old narrator is a wonder and a delight. The setting in Nigeria, in the Deltas area, is one I was not familiar with and now feel I know so much about. It is a novel about change, family, love and adversity. The characters are amazin ...more
Jul 25, 2012 Lisa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a bookgroup book and I have to say my heart sank a little when I discovered it was yet another book about troubled Africa (think The Other Hand, Half of a Yellow Moon...), not because I'm not interested or troubled by it or because these books aren't good, but because although the books do inform and educate, when a reader has finished them, the story, for them has ended, but not for the people still living these lives in Africa...
However, I digress; the voice of 12 year old Blessing, li
May 15, 2013 Debbie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Page: 380
I have to stop reading and give pause. I am a mother of sons and a wife and I want to weep. I want to cradle my book, cradle this family I've grown to love and hold their hands, touch their faces, scratch at dirt with them and weep. This is how I know it's a good book. This is how you know the author deserves heralded. I'm emotionally connected to a family that exists only in words. Amazing.

I’m starting my review with the thought that I posted when I’d reached page 380 reading this book


The author of this egalley, Christie Watson, which I have received from NetGalley, is born and raised in Nigeria. In reading this novel I am thrown into a world that feels completely foreign to me. The story follows the experiences of Blessing, a twelve-year-old. She moves, with her mother and fourteen-year old brother Ezikiel, from Lagos to a "bush compound" near Warri in the Niger Delta. They are to live with her grandparents after her parents' marriage dissolves. Her new life
I'm going to quote Nnedi Okafor's review of Say You're One of Them again, in which she wrote "I can stand the dark but I need light so that I can see where I need to go."

Christie Watson realizes that need for light. This book, set in a small community in the Nigerian Delta, does not shy away from the hot topics: oil, religion, poverty, female genital mutilation, violence. Despite all of that, Watson manages to paint a larger picture that is very much a tribute to the beauty of the land and its
Alan Pickerill
Feb 26, 2012 Alan Pickerill rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I quite liked this book - one of the best I've read in a long time. I tend to favor novels that explore the life or lives of a few people to see how their lives and relationships develop over time. Exploring both their strengths and weaknesses and finding the common threads that hold all of us together in some way.

The father of the children in this story was a huge disappointment, given that I'm a dad to two young children myself. At first I thought he was going to be some kind of jolly family
Rebecca Foster
Watson’s debut novel (winner of the 2011 Costa First Novel prize) is a vivid and lively depiction of Africa in all its contradictions. It’s the same kind of knowledgeable, sweeping picture of Africa as one gets of India in Midnight’s Children et al. Readers are accosted with shrieking sounds, vibrant colours and the smells of food, sewage and burning. Dichotomies abound: wealth vs. poverty, science and medicine vs. superstition, etc.

Narrator Blessing, aged eleven, has recently moved with her mot
I love discovering debut novels that are so good I can't put them down. The Kite Runner and The Help were such books and now I can add Tiny Sunbirds, Far Away to my list.

At the center of the story is an immensely likeable and believable main character. Twelve year old Blessing lives with her family—mother, father and older brother Ezekiel, in Lagos, Nigeria. The relationship between her parents has always been tempestuous, but Blessing is truly shocked when her father’s infidelity forces her mot
Aug 04, 2016 Skip rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: award-winners
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. ...more
Tiny Sunbirds Far Away by Christie Watson opens with 12 year-old Blessing speaking to the charmed life she lives in Lagos, Nigeria with her larger-than-life father, doting mother, and her 14 year-old brother, Ezikiel. All of this will suddenly change when the mother catches the father with another woman, and he decides to leave. The father’s departure starts off a chain of events; first the mother is fired from her job for being unmarried, and now unable to afford living in Lagos, moves to her p ...more
Tara Chevrestt
Wow. This is one of those books that really sucked me into the story. I found myself thinking of the characters and their problems even when I was doing the most mundane tasks like cooking and cleaning. It's a story that stays in your mind long after you turn the last page.

Let me try to sum it up real quick. Blessing is a twelve year old girl and narrator of the story. Her and her brother Ezikiel are forced to leave the only home they have known and move in with their grandparents in rural Niger
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
You know when you start reading a book, and you really have nothing good to say about it but for some reason you want to keep going? This was one of those books for me. Okay, it's entertaining and the setting is fairly vivid, but otherwise it's just bad. Fortunately circumstances caused me to take a few days' hiatus, or there's a good chance I would've finished it.

Really, I knew better as of page 2, where women on the street are described as "hovering around [successful men] like stars around th
May 06, 2012 Elaine rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
I really wanted to like this book, which started very promisingly, more than I did. A fascinating setting, for sure, and some great characters as well. But the pacing is way off, the book creeps along, only to speed up, and then slow down again, with Blessing's too picturesque view point and studied naivete -- body parts growing bigger and smaller with characters' moods constantly is one overused metaphor -- a narrative mode that grows tired. The quirkiness and interest of the setting and certai ...more
May 15, 2011 Jacki rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Blessing's comfortable world comes crashing down with the sound of her mother's scream. When her mother catches her father with another woman, Blessing and her older brother move with their mother from their affluent neighborhood to her mother's childhood village in the Niger Delta. Suddently there is no running water or electricity and her mother is gone all day to work in a nearby bar. Gunboys float down the river, as well as trash and oil; the river that she is expected to bathe in.

Yet Blessi
May 24, 2011 Jennifer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
I received this book as part of a first-reads giveaway.

I just spent two days reading Tiny Sunbirds, Far Away and I was very impressed with this moving hearfelt book. It is told from the point of view of Blessings a 12 year old girl living in the Niger Delta. After moving with her mother and brother into a compound with her grandparents she has a wide range of experiences. Poverty and violence surround her but she is also surrounded by love and family.
Her experiences assisting her grandmother as
Janet Joy
Jun 05, 2012 Janet Joy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was my favourite book of 2011 and my favourite book to recommend to book clubs, teenage girls and women looking for a summer novel that will take them far away.
Blessing is our narrator. She is 12 years old. Her family is forced to leave their home in Lagos and move to her grandmother's village in the Niger Delta. Hardships abound but it's Blessing's grandmother, a wise midwife, who takes her under her wing and becomes her mentor.
The story and characters provide laugh out loud moments, heart
Jan 17, 2011 Susan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Susan by: Tara Chevrestt
Shelves: e-books, arc-edition
12-year old Blessing is used to living in a nice, modern Nigerian apartment in the Better Life Executive Homes with her mother, father, and brother, Ezikiel. Her world fell apart when her mother found her father with another woman. Mama, Blessing, and Ezekiel all went to live with Mama's parents near a little village where electricity was rare, the outhouses were swarming with flies, and drinking water had to be bought from the man who controlled the tap in the nearest village.

Blessing's grandmo
Mar 12, 2012 Alena rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Alena by: Costa Award for 1st novel
Toward the end of her stunning debut novel, Christie Watson writes, “Burned-out engines line up, with flowers growing inside of them. Beauty found a way to grow in the ugliest of places.” Not just a description of battle-ravaged Nigeria, this passage also describes the novel, Tiny Sunbirds, Far Away. Watson has found a way to put corruption, poverty, youth militia and even genital mutilation into a great story, told wonderfully by twelve year-old Blessing.
I don’t mean to imply that the novel’s c
May 28, 2011 marymurtz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Blessing and her brother Ezikiel live with their parents in an apartment in a Nigerian city, but everything changes when her mother walks in on Blessing's father with another woman. After the divorce, Blessing and her mother and brother go to live with her grandparents in Warri, a tiny village in the Niger Delta. She's never met them before.

Blessing's grandfather is a man of great (and failed) ambitions. He converts to Islam and wants to take a second wife. He attempts to get a job as a petrole
May 27, 2011 Babydoll rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Author Christie Watson does an impeccable job of writing a divinely lyrical account of a young Nigerian girl, whose life drastically changes after her mother witnesses her father’s infidelity. A deeply moving tale of a family’s survival as well as a coming of age story of 12 year old Blessing, Tiny Sunbirds, Far Away is a beautifully written story and moving narrative.
I was amazed by Watson’s ability to fully engage and enable the reader to be transformed to the sweltering heat, ruthless violenc
Aug 01, 2011 Renee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is hard to review this book. I'll be honest, I bought this book because Amazon had the Kindle version on sale for $2.99, and who could pass up a deal? It was recommended to me based on past purchases, and really, it does blend in with the types of books I like to read.

What I got out of the book was a beautiful connection between a young girl on the cusp of womanhood and her wise grandmother. I must admit, being raised by my own grandmother, this was a touching part of the story that I did not
May 14, 2011 Anne rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle
I so wanted to love this book. Blessing is a beautifully drawn character, there's a vivid and engaging supporting cast, humour, tragedy, a tremendous story to be told - but it just didn't grab me, and took me an absolute age to read. It really wasn't helped by the introduction from the publishers - "There have been only a few instances in my bookselling career when a novel grabbed hold of my heart from the get-go and held me tight until the last page". That builds quite some expectations - the b ...more
Feb 26, 2013 Betsey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-discussion
This is a unique coming-of-age story set in rural Nigeria, a culture completely outside my understanding or even interest. I would never have picked up this book had it not been assigned for our book discussion group. But the quirky language and intriguing world view of Blessing, the pre-teen narrator, grabbed me from the very beginning. I found myself increasingly absorbed in her story. Repulsed, horrified, but unable to look away, I kept reading, waiting to see her eventual escape from the mis ...more
Jan 20, 2014 Hodgep rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A riveting read. A story of a family's move from relative prosperity in Lagos, Nigeria, to poverty and risk in a village adjacent to an American oil processing facility, told by a twelve year old girl, is a real page turner. While the reader can make judgments about all the players in this book, the perspective is one of an innocent, and the reader witnesses her development over the short time span of the story. Highly recommended reading.
Julia Grundling
i couldn't decide between 3 stars and 4 stars. yes, it was an enjoyable book, but i won't put it quite in the same category as other 4 star books.

i love stories about other countries, as i'm always interested to learn about other cultures.

it is an easy read and a nice story.

Catherine  Mustread
May 03, 2012 Catherine Mustread rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Catherine by: Jody Allison
Shelves: award, africa, nigeria
Great novel of family life and coming of age in rural Nigeria (c2000?) with complex character development. Blessing, the narrator, gives wonderful physical and psychological descriptions of other family members and daily life as the family goes through a multitude of emotional and stressful times.

Deals with human rights issues in Nigeria in several understated yet powerful scenes. Strong women characters.

The Goodreads Christie Watson author profile says that she trained as a nurse, lives in Sout
Wow - where do I start? This is a great book - one of my top reads so far for the year. Having been brought up in Nigeria I like to read books set in Nigeria and books by Nigerian authors and this is a real gem.

After their mother comes home early and catches their father sleeping with another woman, twelve year-old Blessing and her fourteen-year-old brother, Ezikiel, are forced by their mother to leave their comfortable home in Lagos with all the mod coms and move to Warri a small and impoveris
Apr 06, 2012 Joanne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This book was amazing.

I loved the way that Watson used Blessing's narrative to add so much to the story. I love how you felt like you were at the compound and you were feeling what the characters were feeling.

The repetition of certain phrases, such as "Father was a loud man", really added to the effect of the book in my opinion and I really felt like it was Blessing telling the story because it was what had stuck in her brain.

I was surprised by how much I warmed up to Alhaji because at first he
what a beautiful story. Now let me explain - I did not pick this book up to read knowing what it was about. I liked the cover and I was buying two books, and it was get a third three and I grabbed this one without much thought. scanning the back I thought it would be a riches to rags story and left it at that.
I really enjoyed the book right from the start because of the way its told, from Blessings perspective, as a 12 year old girl. this also allows for a small twist at the end of the book whic
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Christie trained as a paediatric nurse at Great Ormond Street Hospital, and worked as a nurse, educator and senior sister, for over ten years before joining UEA for her MA in Creative Writing, where she won the Malcolm Bradbury Bursary. Christie lives in South London with her Nigerian Muslim partner, and their large dual heritage, multi-faith family.
More about Christie Watson...

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“Sometimes, things fall we can put them together in a new way. It is time to make things right.” 16 likes
“Sometimes we see only what we want to show ourselves.” 11 likes
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