Book review of Tiny Sunbirds, Far Away by Christie Watson
Christie Watson‘s first novel, Tiny Sunbirds, Far Away is a powerful bildungsroman of a young Nigerian girl named Blessing through her adulthood. Winner of the 2011 Costa First Novel Award, Watson’s breakout piece is also the culmination of her M.A. in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia, UK.
The novel begins with Blessing’s mother’s discovery that her husband was seeing another woman; this discovery leads Blessing’s father to leave the family. Twelve-year-old Blessing, her fourteen-year-old brother, and their mother are forced to leave their comfortable, air-conditioned, modern apartment in Lagos to return to their grandfather’s village in the Niger Delta.
Blessing’s world changes dramatically, caught between her wise, but traditional grandmother, and her modern mother, who resents Blessing, but also wants her to escape the village life. While Blessing’s brother is lured into a band of ‘freedom fighters,’ her mother seeks a new man in order to escape, her Muslim grandfather marries a younger second wife, and Blessing is trained by her grandmother to be a midwife. Although Blessing is barely into puberty herself, she learns the horrors of female genital mutilation, contrasting sharply with the beauty she sees in the delivery of new babies.
Blessing’s story is beautiful, tragic, and complete. The novel is a compelling tale of someone we believe could be real, even while we wish she couldn’t.
Original Publication: The Flame, 2016