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A Girl Named Disaster

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  4,500 ratings  ·  512 reviews
Nhamo is a virtual slave in her African village in 1981. Before her twelfth birthday, Nhamo runs away to escape marriage to a cruel husband, and spends a year going from Zimbabwe to Mozambique. Alone on the river in a stolen boat, swept into the uncharted heart of a great lake, she battles drowning, starvation, wild animals.

Orchard collectible editions have new designs, au
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published October 1st 2003 by Orchard (first published 1996)
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S Well, I remember that the protagonist got her first period in the book, so I would recommend to any child who you would deem old enough to know what t…moreWell, I remember that the protagonist got her first period in the book, so I would recommend to any child who you would deem old enough to know what that is.(less)
S.E. Scott She's treated very poorly and must do what her family tells her to, even when they tell her to marry a disgusting man in his forties who already has s…moreShe's treated very poorly and must do what her family tells her to, even when they tell her to marry a disgusting man in his forties who already has several wives (not marked as a spoiler because it's also in the summary). She's being raised by her aunt and uncle and they're very harsh to her.(less)

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Average rating 3.83  · 
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Ahmad Sharabiani
A Girl Named Disaster, Nancy Farmer
A Girl Named Disaster is a 1996 novel by Nancy Farmer. The book explores the qualities needed to survive in a hostile environment (particularly by a woman), coming-of-age and the availability of spiritual guidance. Nhamo is an 11-year-old girl living in a traditional Shona village located in Mozambique around 1981. She was raised with the knowledge and customs of her tribe. Nhamo means "disaster" in the Shona language. Nhamo was given this name because of the s
Tricia Lenington
Feb 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book!!! I highly recommend this one. I think it's a great way to understand a little better the complexities of African beliefs and tribal life. It's not a "religion" to them, it's a way of life (believing everything has a spirit, for example).
Jun 11, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who can read a LONG and never ending book
i personally hated this book. although i read it with a class i truely hated it. i think even if i read it by myself i still would not have liked it. its not that the writing is bad its just that it goes on forever and you just get tired of it.
Jul 17, 2009 rated it liked it
"I am she who lifts mountains
When she goes to hunt
Who wears a mamba for a headband
And a lion for a belt
I swallow elephants whole
And pick my teeth with rhinoceros horns
Let them hear my words!
Nhamo is coming
And her hunger is great."

—Nhamo, "A Girl Named Disaster", P. 101

"(P)eople are like plants. Some shoot up like weeds, and some are slow like fruit trees. In the end, the fruit trees are worth more."

—Ambuya, "A Girl Named Disaster, P. 21

I would give three and a half stars to
You know how Hatchet is about a boy who has to survive in the wilds of Canada? A Girl Named Disaster is kind of like that, except instead of a 13-year-old boy from NYC, it's about an approximately 13-year-old girl from Mozambique. While Brian is angsty because his parents are divorced and he has to spend the summer in Canada with his dad, Nhamo doesn't have parents, because her father took off before she was born and her mother was killed by a leopard when she was a toddler. Instead, she's been ...more
Jan 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This took me forever to read. I don't know why? I guess I wasn't reading 20 minutes everyday. Oh well. But, it is a really good book. Interesting.
Oct 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 17, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: english-420
This book is about the young girl Nhamo who leaves her little village in Mozambique in order to find her father's family in Zimbabwe to avoid an impending marriage to a cruel man. She gets stuck on an island and is forced to figure out how to survive on her own while also receiving guidance from the spirit world. By far my favorite part of this book was its rich depiction of folklore. I learned a lot about the beliefs of people from Mozambique and Zimbabwe which I had never even heard of before. ...more
Apr 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book was very slow at first but it quickly turned into a fast-paced one as Nhamo started her journey. I think a theme of this book is to be courageous. Nhamo shows courage in many different parts of the book, like when she hunts a dassie. Dassies can be very big, and Nhamo was slightly scared of them, but she manages to hunt one on her first try. I give this a four out of 5 stars because I think that many parts of this book connected with religion and I liked to hear the myths which were ve ...more
Sep 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: engl-420
A Girl Named Disaster is typical young adult lit fare as far as the main components go. Absent parents, family members who don't treat Nhamo well, feeling marginalized in all areas of life, etc. But she has extraordinary powers that set her apart from her peers. What gives this book its richness is its setting.

Nhamo's family lives in a remote village in Mozambique. Nhamo's grandmother advises her to run away when her family plans on giving her in marriage to the brother of a man her father murd
Mar 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: with-kids, fiction
Coming of age story in a well researched setting with a very strong female main character. Africa (Mozambique and Zimbabwe) and the spirits of Shona tribesmen play a strong role in this solid adventure story.

The basic plot is a girl whose parents are both gone, made to labor for her family in a traditional Shona village. When the story of her father killing a man comes out, some other villagers believe the victim's restless spirit curses the village. Their solution is to marry little Nhamo off t
Jun 04, 2009 rated it it was ok
A girl's book -- boys likely would not relate to the very female nature of this book. Nhamo (whose name means Disaster) lives in the African country of Mozambique in the early 1980s. The native religion and customs of the time will be strange to a youth reader today. Because the spirits tell her family that she is the cause of a cholera epidemic, they send her to be the fourth wife of a cruel man in another town. She runs away, and much of the book consists of her adventures on a boat and on isl ...more
Jennifer Artha
Jan 17, 2012 rated it liked it
I started reading this book with the whole English class. At first I was totally into this book, and i couldn't stop reading and went straight through chapter 18. While reading till the mid part of the book, suddenly I felt really bored with the story, it's not that i didn't like it... it's just that it was pretty boring with her just staying on an island and got stranded over and over. There was also some pretty disgusting things that were in the book that is supposed to be read by girls, becau ...more
Jan 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book is ANYTHING but torture!
Nancy Farmer has really outdid herself this time! This book truly represents the rights that all children possess since birth to have family, to have freedom, to have justice.
Nhamo, forced to courtship with a man she barely knows, flees her village in a stolen boat on a voyage to freedom. And with the assistance of her mother's spirit, a dead man and two water spirits, Nhamo doesn't have to face it all alone. With her courage, nature, spirit (and spirits) and fa
Alexandra Spangler
To tell the truth, I hadn't expected to love this book as much as I did. However, I found myself in a completely new world. The novel was about a young Afircan girl named Nhamo, which means "disaster" in the language of her people. Ever since her mother died, Nhamo has been treated like an outcast and made to do all the chores for her aunt and uncle, while their daughter sits and does what she wants. In this inspiring tale, Nhamo is told by her grandmother (who is the only person in the village ...more
Apr 20, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: pre-teen, fiction
This book would have gotten a 3 or even a 4 if it had continued how it started. For example I enjoyed Nhamo's insights on why her cousin was so patient and good tempered (wouldn't you be if you got to sit in the shade).I liked getting to know the culture through her family relations but once she started journeying on her own thats where I felt like I was trudging through the book. The journeying lasted way too long (reminded me of Cast Away). When she finally came back to human habitation I want ...more
Nataly Sanchez
Oct 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Although a lot of text on the pages I liked this book. There were parts where the story felt like it was taking forever to progress. I enjoyed finding out Nhamo's origins as she escapes to see her father.
Joel Richardson
Nov 04, 2010 rated it liked it
A Girl Named Disaster by Nancy Farmer African traditions, religion, female
"coming of age," race, nature, class,
globalization, National Book Award

When I was in 6th grade I read The Hatchet, an exciting book about a solitary boy in the middle of the frozen Canadian tundra who survives alone for a long period of time. It was one of my favorite books growing up. A Girl Named Disaster reminds me a great deal of Gary Paulsen's thrilling novel, but just change the boy with Nhamo, the Cana
Dec 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
My daughter read this in school and said I MUST read it. I liked it as well. It is like Island of the Blue Dolphins (which I also loved): an adolescent girl forced to survive on her own. This one takes place in Mozambique, and the girl is Shona. I really felt that I was inside this girl, her thoughts and feelings were so well portrayed. While she is alone she talks to spirits: her deceased mother, the deceased owner of the boat she is using and the water spirits. The fun part is that they talk b ...more
'I am Nhamo, a tree full of fruit,
Not a weed,
Pay attention, little girls!
I am now a woman
And allowed to scold you.
My pots will be stronger, my baskets finer,
The roofs of my house will not fall in,
I am Nhamo, a mighty woman,
For whom crossing a measly river was not enough!'

I can't describe the extend up to which this book has touched and stirred my heart and soul. There is something very subtle about the protagonist Nhamo, she is a low-key rebel, who questions everything. She is a bit clueless too
May 31, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: africa
(CIP) While journeying to Zimbabwe, eleven-year-old Nhamo struggles to escape drowning and starvation and in so doing comes close to the luminous world of the African spirits

Review: This substantial, well-researched novel begins in a Mozambiquan village and surrounding settlements, where an engaging plot—involving the 11-year-old protagonist, Nhamo, and a cast of reasonably well-drawn supporting characters—begins to unfold. When Nhamo runs away to escape an unwanted marriage, she enters into a s
Dec 07, 2009 rated it it was ok
This isn't my favorite book I've read. It was really long, and I had a hard time getting into it; in fact, I don't think I ever just fell into the book like I do with others. A Girl Named Disaster tells the story of Nhamo, an African girl who lives in a village with her family. Taking place when some of Africa—like Zimbabwe—is Westernized, Nhamo undergoes a journey of escape, survival, and self-discovery. She leaves her village to escape an arranged marriage mandated by the spirits, and spends s ...more
Apr 24, 2019 rated it liked it
This book I read for my daughter's school participation in Book Bowl. This is a 1997 Newberry Honor book. I listened to the unabridged audio cassettes narrated by Lisette Lecat.

The story is a coming of age for Nhamo, an African girl from Mozambique, who is wrongly accused of witchcraft and required by her family to marry a very bad man who beats his current 3 wives and has an unnamed disease. We know this from the backpage blurb. However, it took several cassettes to get to that point, as well
James Gordon
Dec 10, 2009 rated it did not like it
Shelves: ya-novels
Nhamo lived with her dead mom’s family. Her father had abandoned her mother before Nhamo was even born. Living in a tribe who believe children belonged to the father, Nhamo was not appreciated or even treated very well by her relatives. When a cholera epidemic sweeps over the tribe, her family’s only explanation was that they were being punished for Nhamo’s presence and they decide to force her into a marriage with an older man to settle her father’s past transgressions. Her loving grandmother, ...more
Ardea Smith
Oct 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reading-log
Title / Author / Publication Date: A Girl Named Disaster/Nancy Farmer/1996

Genre: Fiction

Format: Paperback

Plot summary: While journeying to Zimbabwe from Mozambique, eleven-year-old Nhamo struggles to escape drowning and starvation and in so doing comes close to the luminous world of the African spirits.

Considerations or precautions for readers advisory: The story deals with female menstruation and child brides or arranged marriages.

Review citation: Tillotson, Laura. (1996). A Girl Named Disaste
Apr 15, 2013 rated it liked it
A story about a girl who is hated by her family and runs away to escape being force to marry. I think I would have enjoyed this better if I wasn't reading The Island of the Blue Dolphin with my daughter at the same time. I think the two together made for a little too much "girl survives in the wild against all odds" for my own tastes. That said I enjoyed the story and it made me really glad that I do not have to eat bugs in order to survive. And it had a pretty happy ending which is always nice.
C. Grace
Jun 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I read this book when I was in sixth grade. It really went over some tough topics. It took me about a week to read it and I don't remember everything about it, but I do remember that I absolutely loved this book. I suggest it to readers of all ages. Obviously it's the maturity of the reader not the age. It's a long book I do agree, but I never felt like the subject got boring, it was a new adventure every chapter. Any way I seriously recommend this book.
Maia Ciambriello
Jan 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I was required to read this book and I thought I'd hate it. But honestly, I really enjoyed this book. The hardships Nhamo must go through makes the book interesting. When she travels through the spirit world, you feel like your in the spirit world too. However, this book is very sad. Not sad enough for me to cry, but still pretty sad. I would recommend this book to someone who is looking for a challenge. It's a great book!
Gwen Sijangga
Jan 17, 2012 rated it it was ok
This book has a lot of details, which makes it boring for people my age. Plus, some parts of the book aren't very useful to the plot of the story. I gave this book two stars 'cause its not really the kind of book I would pick up and read in the library. Overall, I would recommend this book for senior students instead of middle school students.
Sep 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, luv-it
I luv this book! If you havent read this book or are not planning to your really missing out on ALOT and I feel bad for you!
:-) (-: :D :-D I really hope you read this book you HAVE TO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I finished it and now i'm trying to get everyone in the class to read it PLEASE READ THIS BOOK !!!!!!!
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Nancy was born in 1941 in Phoenix and grew up in a hotel on the Arizona-Mexico border where she worked the switchboard at the age of nine. She also found time to hang out in the old state prison and the hobo jungle along the banks of the Colorado River. She attended Reed College in Portland, Oregon, earning her BA in 1963. Instead of taking a regular job, she joined the Peace Corps and was sent to ...more

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“I am she who lifts the mountains
When she goes to hunt,
Who wears mamba for a headband
And a lion for a belt.
I swallow elephants whole
And pick my teeth with rhinoceros horns,
I drink up rivers to get at the hippos.
Let them hear my words!
Nhamo is coming
And her hunger is great.

I am she who tosses trees
Instead of spears.
The ostrich is my pillow
And the elephant is my footstool!
I am Nhamo
Who makes the river my highway
And sends crocodiles scurrying into the reeds!”
More quotes…