NoViolet Bulawayo’s Man Booker Prize nominated novel on Zimbabwe’s children might have lost the prize to the chunkster from New Zealand, but it sure wins the reader’s heart. Darling, the ten-year old narrator from Paradise, is the best thing about this book. Yes, the book deals with difficult issues and yes, it’s the children who bring you the gory details of their world. Yet, I don’t think an adult narrator could have affected me the way Darling did.
Darling, Stina, Chipo, Sbho, Bastard, Godknows are among many in the poverty ridden community of Paradise. Abuse in its various forms is a reality in their world. That doesn’t seem to break their spirit as they make their way towards a much-lauded better life in the US. Sexual abuse, HIV, civil war, poverty and pretty much every other known issue grappling an under developed nation is taken on. I had a feeling that maybe Bulawayo wanted to put in all that there is into the plot. While the book does a wonderful job of creating a panoramic view of the troubled nation, the description of the fallacies of First World falls flat.
Some readers liked the way Bulawayo painted a compare and contrast picture between Zimbabwe and US, to me it was her narrator who gave the book its charm. If you have like reading fiction set in the African continent, We Need New Names will tick off many right boxes on your checklist.
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