Trishnyc's Reviews > Tiny Sunbirds, Far Away

Tiny Sunbirds, Far Away by Christie Watson
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Aug 21, 2011

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Read in August, 2011

Blessings seemingly perfect life is destroyed when her mother, Timi, comes home early and finds her husband in flagrante delicto with another woman. After the shouting and screaming, the reality of the situation is that the her father decides that he wants to be the new woman and moves out of the house. Blessing's mother tries to eke out a living for herself, Blessing and her son Ezikiel but she finds it very hard with the loss of her husband's income. But the final straw and deciding factor is the loss of her job because of the change in her marital status. The whole family moves to the Niger Delta, her mother's ancestral home, where Blessing is exposed to shocking realities that her leisured life is Lagos didn't prepare her for.

Blessing is shocked by the poverty and dirt that welcome her when she arrives her grandparents' home and soon realizes that the life she knew is gone. The other children she encounters are unwashed and uneducated and she wonders how she can survive this place. Her new life seems to be full of one change after another, one hardship after another and soon all her former hopes are extinguished.

I wanted to love this book. I lived in Nigeria for many years and anytime I see a book on the subject of Nigeria, I am immediately interested to read it. But I think that my personal knowledge of Nigeria that made certain things about this book jump out at me. As I read, it sometimes felt like I was reading a book by someone who had read a guide book on Nigeria and was throwing out information and random tidbits that did not always fit in with the story being portrayed. This made the book seem less authentic to me.

I loved Blessing, she was a sweet girl. She was smart, funny and extremely patient of those around her. I felt terrible for the poor treatment she received from her mother and it reminded me of seeing some of my friends' parents who treated their male and female children differently. Once Blessing and her family leave their home in Lagos, Timi treats her so differently, almost like she blamed her for their plight, while treating Ezikiel like royalty. That bothered me immensely and made me never warm to Timi for the rest of the story. Nothing Blessing did was right, nothing she did was okay, only Ezikiel received her unconditional love. I felt bad for her husband's mistreatment of her but the person she becomes afterwards left a bad taste in my mouth.

Another problem I had with this book was that Blessing was twelve years old but sometimes she sounded like she was six. I think the author in an attempt to portray a young voice, went too young. Lagos is a very socially and technologically advanced city. A child who grew up there would not be as naive as Blessing was sometimes portrayed. There is a scene where Blessing goes to visit her mother's boyfriend and sees a mounted flat screen TV and she is fascinated by it and wonders how it is on the wall. It was just too implausible to believe. If Blessing had lived in one of Lagos's many ghettos, I might be more inclined to believe her awe but she is the child of middle class parents who went to a very good school. Incidents like this were hard to believe. Also in an effort to make Blessing sound poetic, she sometimes comes across as unrealistic. When her brother is shot and she sees a friend dragging him home, she says, "I saw Ezikiel wearing a wearing a red hibiscus on his shoulder." Really?

All the men in this book but one or two don't fair very well. They are controlling, abusive, patriarchal and leave much to be desired. I felt like there could have been a much more balanced portrayal in that regard but oh well.

But Blessing and her grandmother saved this book for me. They presented another alternative on how to deal with pain and hardship. Their spirits remained unbroken by life and I admired both immensely. I loved Blessing's grandmother because she was the only anchor for a lost child when everyone else had let her down.

The end of the book was sweet and helped soften my feelings toward this book. Not a bad book but if your want an excellent book on Nigeria, I would go with Lola Shoneyin's The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives.

3.5/5.

**Review copy received from Amazon.com's Vine Program.
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