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Song for Night

Average Rating 4.5
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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 9, 2007

    War From a Child's Vantage

    In SONG FOR NIGHT author Chris Abani has achieved what few authors have even dared - relating the grisly aspects of war as seen through the eyes of a warrior child. The mixture of innocence and participation in some of the most gruesome details of war make this novel difficult to read, yet at the same time Abani's narrator, My Luck, is a young lad with whom we not only completely identify in his sharing of his experiences, but also grow to love profoundly. This small book is not only exquisitely crafted - it is a genuine and heartrending little masterpiece. A West African war-torn nation (probably Abani's own Nigeria where he himself was the victim of the brutality of war) uses children as soldiers. My Luck is part of a small mine diffusing unit, a group of children who were placed in boot camp at age twelve and now at age fifteen are the delicate triggers that determine the presence of field mines, diffusing them, and gathering the then safe mines for weapons for their 'Major'. The children are 'treated' with a surgery that destroys their vocal cords, a brutal means of assuring that when one of the children steps on a live mine his voice will not cry out, signaling the presence of the war unit to the rebels. These mute young soldiers bond, lose each other, and do as they are instructed, creating a life of danger, terror and probable early death, all before they have had the luxury of growing into adults. My Luck's narration begins as he is thrown in the air by a detonated mine, his fellow 'soldiers' and company believing him dead have left him unconscious in the dirt. My Luck's story is that of a search for his fellow soldiers, a search that triggers recollections of his childhood, his love for a young girl Ijeoma who is killed by a hidden mine, his recurring memories of his nurturing Catholic mother and his deeply religious iman Muslim father, his forced rape of a woman by his commander to prove his manhood, his contact with his elders in visions, his perception of ghosts as his mind and body are starved for food, water, and safety, and his narrowly escaping his enemy's discovery by floating down a river of corpses. My Luck's vision of the world is at once conflicted with a sense of exhilaration that at times equates killing with orgasm. Yet as we follow his mute journey he enters our psyche the way few others characters drawn from the 'world as war' have gained our hearts. 'These are memories. Before we can move from here, we have to relive and release our darkness'. Abani somehow manages to relate this grisly tale with such sensitive poetic form that he opens windows of light that illuminate both the essence of life and of death. 'Here we believe that when a person dies in a sudden and hard way, their spirit wanders confused looking for its body. Confused because they don't realize they are dead. I know this. Traditionally a shaman would ease such a spirit across to the other world. Now, well, the land is crowded with confused spirits and all the shamans are soldiers.' This is a brilliant little book by a gifted artist. Highly recommended. Grady Harp

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 7, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 19, 2011

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