At the center of the story is an immensely likeable and believable main character. Twelve year old Blessing lives with her family—mother, father and older brother Ezekiel, in Lagos, Nigeria. The relationship between her parents has always been tempestuous, but Blessing is truly shocked when her father’s infidelity forces her mother to leave him. With nowhere else to go, her mother takes her children back to the small African village of her birth.
Blessing cannot believe how quickly and dramatically her life has changed. There is no electricity, no running water, no flush toilets. Living quarters are cramped and pollution from the nearby oil fields of the Niger Delta casts a pall over the countryside. Her family’s religion switches overnight from Christianity to the Islam of her grandparents.
Most upsetting of all is the lack of money. Blessing’s mother finds work as a barmaid at a luxury hotel patronized by the oil field workers, but her salary is inadequate. Soon both children are suspended from school because they cannot pay tuition. What happens to the children as a result is the most riveting part of the novel. Blessing is taken under her grandmother’s wing and becomes an apprentice midwife. Ezekiel is bereft and is soon under the influence of a local gang, the Sibeye Boys.
Just when you think their lives could not be more complicated, their mother brings home a controversial new boyfriend. How the family reacts has unexpected and tragic consequences.
In addition to the wonderful voice of Blessing, the novel has many vivid secondary characters who leap to life through Watson’s writing. The reader quickly becomes involved in their lives and cares greatly about what happens to them. The Nigerian setting is rendered beautifully and the politics of Africa are woven into the story in a way that is believable without being didactic. Highly recommended.