Mimi Jones Hedwig

Writer, Editor, Animal Advocate

Book review blog

GIRL by Edna O'Brien

Posted by mhedwig on January 8, 2020 at 2:25 PM

Like her brilliant The Little Red Chairs, Edna O’Brien’s Girl tells the searing story of a young woman victimized by the political violence of men. In this case the setting is Nigeria, where Maryam is a schoolgirl captured and held prisoner for years by Boko Haram..

 

She becomes the “bush wife” of one of her captors, who is unexpectedly gentle; he dies, she bears his child, a little girl whom she calls only Babby and struggles to love with her broken heart and spirit.

 

Maryam escapes with Babby from her captors and ultimately finds her way back to her village and her bitter mother, who is dealing with her own loss and grief, her husband and son killed. The mother is now living with a brutal man, Maryam’s uncle. Babby —considered an emblem of shame because of her “infidel” paternal parentage—is taken from Maryam, given, the young woman is told, to an Auntie until the child’s fate can be decided. Despite Maryam’s urgent entreaties, no one will let her see her child or tell her anything about her.

 

Imprisoned by her uncle, desperate to be reunited with Babby for whom she has come to know a ferocious love, Maryam goes temporarily mad. She must escape, she must act before another innocent girl —her daughter—has her spirit, or her very life, snuffed out.

 

Like Fidelma in The Little Red Chairs, the narrator finds her way out of tragedy to the kindness of strangers and to a hard-won sanctuary where a fragile hope can begin to grow.

 

The Acknowledgments section tells a gripping tale in itself, of the author’s own demanding quest to go to Africa, meet with the survivors of the Boko Haram kidnapping, and distill their stories into the saga of this one brave Girl.

Categories: Fiction