Tiny Sunbirds, Far Away
From the book
Father was a loud man. I could hear him shouting from the neighbors' apartment, where he argued about football with Dr. Adeshina and drank so much Remy Martin that he could not stand up properly. I could hear him singing when he returned from the Everlasting Open Arms House of Salvation Church, on a bus that had the words UP JESUS DOWN SATAN written on the side. The singing would reach my ears right up on the fourth floor. From my window I watched thebus driver and Pastor King Junior carry Father towards the apartment because he could not stand up at all.
If Father did stand up, it was worse. He seemed to have no idea how to move around quietly, and when he did try, after Mama said her head was splitting in two, the crashing became louder.
We were so used to Father's loud voice that it became quieter. Our ears changed and put on a barrier like sunglasses whenever he was at home. So when we left for market early on Saturday morning and knew Father was out working all day on some important account at the office, our ears did not need their sunglasses on. And when Mama realized she had forgotten her purse, and we had to turn back, our ears were working fine. I heard the chatter of the women at market, the traffic and street traders along Allen Avenue, and the humming of the electric gate to let us back into the apartment building. I heard our footsteps on the hallway carpets, and Mama's key in the front lock. I heard the cupboard door open when Ezikiel and I went straight for the biscuits.
And then I heard the most terrible, loudest noise I had ever heard in my life.
My switched-on ears hurt. I tried to put the glasses on them, to switch them down, to turn them off. Father must have been home; I could hear him shouting.
Father was a loud man.
But it was Mama who was screaming.
- People Magazine "A sure-footed debut narrated by 12-year-old Blessing, a girl growing up too fast in the troubled Niger Delta."
- Cleveland Plain Dealer "[An] assured, absorbing first novel...Watson's cleanly told coming-of-age story generates real narrative momentum."
- Miami Herald "Watson is generous in her assessment of human nature, and her novel surprises even as its sense of danger is never truly at bay...[An] ultimately triumphant book."
- Publishers Weekly, starred review "[An] impressive debut...Watson's nuanced portrayal of daily life in Nigeria is peopled with flawed but tenacious characters who fight not only for survival but for dignity. Blessing is a wonderful narrator whose vivid impressions enliven Watson's sensual prose."
- Kirkus Reviews "[An] absorbing first novel, told through the eyes of the bright and observant Blessing...a memorable debut novel about a Nigerian girl's coming of age."
- Library Journal "Confronting issues of race, class, and religion, this work ponders idealistic ignorance in a way that is reminiscent of Chinua Achebe's No Longer at Ease. Watson's story will appeal to readers of African and literary fiction."
- Booklist "Through the lens of young girl's coming-of-age, this breakthrough novel views the politics of contemporary Nigeria, portraying the clash between traditional and modern as it affects one extended family."
- Barnes and Noble Review "A first novel that knows how to tell a story, concocting a voice that lures us. Perfect pitch is not reserved for musicians; some novelists have it, too. From the very first page of her very first book, Christie Watson proves she possesses it, creating a voice that tells a tale we can't put down."
- Giles Foden, author of The Last King of Scotland "An excellent novel. It takes the reader deep into the reality of ordinary life in Nigeria and is also funny, moving and politically alert."
- Helon Habila, author of Oil on Water, winner of the Commonwealth Prize "Christie Watson's debut novel, set in the troubled Niger Delta, does what fiction does best, it captures place and characters so well that you feel you are also there. It is sincere, it is powerfully written, and it deserves to be read."
- Chika Unigwe, author of On Black Sisters' Street "Watson has written an immensely absorbing novel. It is both heart wrenching and consoling."
- Lesley Lokko, author of Sundowners, Saffron Skies, and Bitter Chocolate "Lyrical and beautifully drawn, a poignant coming-of-age tale, set in an Africa few readers will have experienced. A must-read."
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