Diversathon sort of saved this book for me. I was going to dump it in the “Sell/Swap” pile and be done with it because I had DNFed it two times already. Once at 25 pages I think and another at 80 pages. Both times I couldn’t get on board with the language or the main character. I didn’t particularly care about what happened to Agu and was more concerned about his sister and his mother. But being a female who related and prefers female characters I guess there’s nothing new about that. But I’m glad I stuck it out through Diversathon because I can now put this away without feeling bad.
CHARACTER AND STORY
We follow Agu, who is a young boy who is in the middle of the civil war in a place in West Africa. The area isn’t named but it doesn’t need to be since the story is written in a way that these details don’t matter. He is one of the victims of war wherein his family is split apart, his father dead and his mother and sister missing. The story is written from Agu’s POV right from life before the war and life during it. It’s dark and gritty, written with an innocence that’ll break your heart. We’ve all heard of the children soldiers in this war and this story tells you how one of them feels.
He heads out with the soldiers who scoop him up and has to listen to the Commandant whom he is both in awe of and terrified of. And the things that he and another little boy are made to do are absolutely horrific! Be it killing or witnessing other atrocities, these boys grow up before they’ve even reached half the height they’re going to be and not in the way that they actually should.
My biggest problem was the writing style Uzodinma Iweala chose to go with. It’s sort of slow and hard to grasp at the beginning. Of course, as you read on you get the flow of it but try to sit and read this consistently because if you grab something else in between the language will be jarring again. But this writing that was so off putting at first is what makes this book what it is and gives Agu the voice that he has. It’s able to convey the most horrific things in simple childlike terms that shock you because you don’t expect it.
Example : “I am waiting outside in the darkness making myself ready for when I go in. So I am thinking as many good thing I can think because if you are thinking good thing, nothing bad is happening to you.”
I’d definitely recommend this book if you’re looking for African literature, particularly about the war. Granted, it’s the only book I’ve read about it but it was enough and I am thoroughly exhausted. I cannot imagine the horror that all these kids are subject to every night in their dreams! Read this to get a better understanding of the horrors that people inflict upon their kind.
In this stunning debut novel, Agu, a young boy in an unnamed West African nation, is recruited into a unit of guerrilla fighters as civil war engulfs his country. Haunted by his father’s own death at the hands of militants, Agu is vulnerable to the dangerous yet paternal nature of his new commander. While the war rages on, Agu becomes increasingly divorced from the life he had known before the conflict started—a life of school friends, church services, and time with his family still intact.
In a powerful, strikingly original voice that vividly captures Agu’s youth and confusion, Uzodinma Iweala has produced a harrowing, inventive, and deeply affecting novel.