Shelleyrae at Book'd Out's Reviews > Beneath the Darkening Sky

Beneath the Darkening Sky by Majok Tulba
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Aug 28, 12

bookshelves: aussie-author, netgalley-reviews
Read from August 27 to 28, 2012 — I own a copy

I learnt about this title from a brief interview with Get Reading organiser Cheryl Akyl and Majok Tulba and was immediately interested. When Tulba was nine the Sudanese Armed Forces invaded his village and murdered many its people, including members of Majok's family. Separated from his parents during the attack, Majok fled the village with his younger brother, and other boys too small to be forced into the SAF. He spent most of his time moving between refugee camps along the border of South Sudan and Uganda before being granted an Australian visa in 2001 aged just sixteen. Beneath The Darkening Sky is a compelling fictionalised account of what may have happened to him had he been forced into service, a fate that is all too real for some.

Obinna, having been forced to witness the beheading of his father and the rape and beating of his mother, is bundled into a truck, along with his older brother and friends, forcibly recruited to serve the Sudanese rebel army. These scenes of brutal violence, witnessed through the eyes of an 11 year old boy, are a confronting launch into Africa's civil war and Obinna's journey as a boy soldier.

The first person point of view works beautifully in this story, Obinna's observations, his thoughts, his hopes and fears are so simply expressed, and all the more powerful for it. Obinna effortlessly evokes emotion in the reader, certainly a great deal of empathy but also a range of emotions from veering between admiration to disgust. Though Obinna does his best to retain his humanity in such a desperate situation, he eventually succumbs to the intense psychological and physical pressure to become a soldier. Not wholly, but still he wields a gun with the rebels as they continue their rampage through tiny Sudanese villages.

The casual disregard for human life, the nonsensical political rhetoric and the sheer horror shared in Beneath The Darkening Sky is hard to comprehend. That the author himself witnessed such atrocities and heard first hand accounts of much worse is even more disturbing.In Beneath the Darkening Sky there is little difference between the actions of the rebels and the government forces though the author resists preaching about the political/social climate of Africa allowing Obinna to remain grounded in his experience. A quick Google search will provide a history of the conflict and confirm that this novel, while a fictionalised account, reveals more truth than imagination.

Beneath the Darkening Sky shines a light on the experience of thousands of children in Africa with raw intensity. A confronting, haunting, powerful read, I highly recommend it.
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