Far from Home

Far from Home

by Na'ima Robert

Will I ever see my home again? I do not know. Will I ever see my father again? I do not know. Will life ever be the same again? I do not know. Katie and Tariro are worlds apart but their lives are linked by a terrible secret, gradually revealed in this compelling and dramatic story of two girls grappling with the complexities of adolescence, family and a painful


Will I ever see my home again? I do not know. Will I ever see my father again? I do not know. Will life ever be the same again? I do not know. Katie and Tariro are worlds apart but their lives are linked by a terrible secret, gradually revealed in this compelling and dramatic story of two girls grappling with the complexities of adolescence, family and a painful colonial legacy. 14-year-old Tariro loves her ancestral home, the baobab tree she was born beneath, her loving family - and brave, handsome Nhamo. She couldn't be happier. But then the white settlers arrive, and everything changes - suddenly, violently, and tragically. Thirty-five years later, 14-year-old Katie loves her doting father, her exclusive boarding school, and her farm with its baobab tree in rural Zimbabwe. Life is great. Until disaster strikes, and the family are forced to leave everything and escape to cold, rainy London. Atmospheric, gripping and epic in scope, Far from Home brings the turbulent history of Zimbabwe to vivid, tangible life.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Praise for From Somalia with Love:
"Sensitive, sometimes painful . . . Warm, engaging, and intensely thought-provoking . . . It should be widely read."
VOYA - Alicia Abdul
As Robert’s book demonstrates, the tumultuousness of Zimbabwe’s independence was bloody, emotional, and complex. To highlight these struggles, two girls on different sides of the battle narrate: Tariro, an African who was born beneath the land’s baobab tree, and Katie, whose farm looks out toward that same baobab tree twenty-five years later. The land struggle is the underpinning of this decidedly human story of what constitutes home. Tariro’s strength and resilience distinguish her full life, with the final pages focusing on her wisdom and insistence on facing a man, Katie’s father, who beat and blinded her fiancé, raped and impregnated her, and farmed her family’s land before national independence forced him off. Yet she only seeks understanding, not revenge for the wrongdoings of a white man hungry for power and undoubtedly xenophobic. And as we learn from Katie’s perspective, her father’s damaged pride led to poverty and alcoholism and turned him into the skeleton of a man who was once great in her eyes. Stunningly executed, the plot and characters deepen as does the awareness for the nation’s disputes that make this historical novel appealing to many readers. Though there are rare loose ends, most plot points bear fruit and navigate political and social strife juxtaposing Rhodies and Zimbos. As Robert points out in an interview, there are many memoirs written about this period, notably from the white perspective. The author richly blends both voices for a broader view, both well-researched and authentic. Purchase is mandatory for a balanced multicultural collection. Ages 12 to 18.
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—Part one of this novel takes place in 1964; 14-year-old Tariro, the daughter of the chief of the Karanga people in what is now Zimbabwe, spends her days helping her mother care for her family, dreaming of marriage to a boy she has known for years, and listening to stories of her ancestors, who have lived in the area for generations. All of her dreams are shattered when the white settlers force them to leave their homes and relocate to the Native Reserves, land with few resources and little hope. The years go by, marked by drought, suffering, and hunger, until Tariro joins the rebels who are fighting to take back their land. In part two, set in 2000, 14-year-old Katie, the daughter of a white farmer, is caught in this rebellion, and she, too, is forced to leave the land she has grown to love. The violent history of Zimbabwe is told through events surrounding Tariro and Katie as they are caught in the middle of racial tensions and rebellion, uprooted from their homes, and forever bound by a terrible secret, which is exposed in the final section. Strong characters and vivid descriptions combine to provide readers with a glimpse of the pain involved on both sides of political issues. Although the novel tackles a difficult subject, the story clarifies traumatic events surrounding rebellion from conflict to healing.—Denise Moore, O'Gorman Junior High School, Sioux Falls, SD
Kirkus Reviews
A Shona girl ejected from her home shares thought-provoking parallels with a white girl forced from her own 25 years later. Fourteen-year-old Tariro loves her life, her family and her home under the baobab tree, but all that goodness comes crashing down when a Rhodesian colonialist claims the rich farmland for himself. Her fiancé is beaten so badly he loses his sight, while she's brutally raped by the white man. Fast-forward from 1964 to 2000, and meet Katie, also 14. Despite the revolution, whites still own most of the land and wealth in the nation now known as Zimbabwe. Katie adores her father and loves her farm under the baobab tree. While Katie's and Tariro's feelings about their homes run lyrically side-by-side, their home lives are not so similar. Tariro's family, pre-eviction, is nigh-idyllic. Katie's (lest readers over-sympathize) is peopled by sexist drunks and abusive racists. Katie's love for her home and family are sincere, though, and her own forced eviction is moving. Coincidence brings Tariro and Katie together long enough to help Katie understand the history of her family. While the Karanga and Afrikaans heavily peppered throughout are used flavorfully enough to make a glossary unnecessary, a historical note would provide vital context about Zimbabwe's complicated present; readers could be forgiven for finding Robert Mugabe a hero. Unsubtle in all the right ways. (Fiction. 13-17)

Product Details

Frances Lincoln Children's Books
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.70(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
13 - 16 Years

Read an Excerpt

Part 1

Rhodesia, 1976

They killed Farai today. Killed him and stripped him, mutilating him so that even his own father would not recognise him. Then they took him to the nearest Protected Village and forced the villagers to come and look at his broken, bleeding body.
“Look!” the white soldiers told the villagers who stood there, trying to avert their eyes, trying to block out the stench and the deafening buzz of the flies, murmuring silent prayers. “This is how the so-called ‘freedom fighters’ punish those who do not do as they say. And they will do this to you if you allow them to camp here, if you feed them, if you don’t tell us when they are coming. We are here to protect peace-loving people like you from these terrorists. Choose peace, not death.”
It could so easily have been me. Farai and I were fighting the same war, fighting for the same dream: to take back the land. To go home again.
I miss my home, even now, years after we first left. When I close my eyes, I can still see everything clearly, etched forever in my mind. The circular, mud house with the thatched roof where I used to sleep; the great tree in the middle of the homestead where Sekuru used to tell us stories of children taken away by witches, riding on the backs of hyenas; the fields of maize and the herds of sharp-horned cattle; the granite-topped mountains; the upside-down baobab tree; the endless sky, heavy with hopeful clouds at the start of the rainy season.
There is no time to look for rain-clouds here. There is no point. Now we live to die, not to sow seeds and help cows give birth to calves that will one day pay roora, bride wealth, for daughters yet to come. Now my home is the bush and my family is my comrades. We, the freedom fighters.
My bed changes every night as we follow the signs left for us by the savannah. Some days nothing happens, other days, like today, blood is spilled and my heart cannot stop flooding with terror. But I am strong, like my mother, and I cry my tears on the inside. I will mourn my brother, Farai, on the inside.
Will I ever see my home again? I do not know.
Will I ever see my father again? I do not know.
Will life ever be the same again? I do not know.
But it comforts me, comforts me and pains me, to think of how it came to this, how I came to call the bush my home.
So I will think of it now; I will remember everything that happened and try to comfort myself. And ease the pain of exile under this unfamiliar sky.

Rhodesia, 1964
The baobab’s daughter

Many, many years ago, my forefathers came to this place, this place the whites now call Fort Victoria. They liked what they saw: the vast lands, the abundant trees, enough to build many homesteads, and the rains that came like a welcome visitor every year.
‘This is a good place,’ they thought. ‘This is a place to put down roots.’
So they did. They cut down trees to clear the grass for fields, fields of maize and beans and peanuts, and grazing for cattle. They cut the trees into many pieces and used them to build: homes for their families, homes for their cattle, homes for their dreams of a harvest to come.
This is the land our ancestors left for us. This is how we came to call this land our home.
I am Tariro, daughter of the soil. My people are the Karanga people, our totem is mhondoro, the lion, and, in the year I turned fourteen, my father was the chief of our people.
My mother, Amai, loved to tell me about when I was born.
“Tariro, mwanangu, my child,” she would begin, smiling. “I will always remember the day of your birth. It was the final days of my third pregnancy. I walked like an old woman because my joints were loose and ready for the birth. But I still went to my fields to hoe because it was planting season. All through the pregnancy, I craved the fruit of the baobab tree – those sour powdery seeds that the elephants love so much.
So I would walk to the baobab tree on the other side of the fields and, sometimes, I was fortunate enough to find that the elephants had left me some of the fruits.
”On that day I had finished my hoeing early, so I decided to go and find some of the baobab fruit. It was when I finally got to the baobab tree that the pains began. I leaned on the trunk of the tree, breathing, trying not to cry out. But the pain was so intense, I couldn’t walk. I tried crawling for help, but the dry grass and stones cut my knees. I decided to go and shelter by the trunk of the tree and wait for someone to find me. But then I started to feel the baby coming, just like that! So I said to myself, MaiFarai, you will have to give birth to this baby on your own. Isn’t that what our mothers used to do? And I did, Tariro. I gave birth to you all by myself, right there at the foot of the baobab tree. Your father found us there and called for the muchingi, the midwife. She couldn’t believe it when she saw us!”
“Then what happened, Amai?” I asked.
“They took me home to my house and made me rest for many days. Your father was very worried about me. But I had never felt better! I had a daughter, a daughter I had prayed for, and I felt different somehow, changed. Giving birth to you made me know my own strength. I will always be grateful for that. My Tariro…”
Then she would smile again, tears in her eyes, stroking my head.
As a baby, I spent the days on my mother’s back, tied close to her, following her every movement as she pounded the dried maize to make maize-meal, the thick porridge that was my father’s favourite dish. I went with her as she tended her crops, as she carried water from the river. I grew to know her smell, her voice, to know when she was happy, to sense when she was sad. Our hearts beat in time.
When at last I came down from Amai’s back and began to walk, barefoot, my skinny legs poking out from under one of my brother’s old shirts, I began to explore the world outside Amai’s house. I spent my days wandering the homestead, playing in the grass with my brothers, looking for seed pods, discovering anthills and dung beetles, getting to know the calls of the birds. I played the games that little girls play and sang the songs that children sing.
And, while I amused myself, Amai carried another baby in her womb. After that one, Amai gave birth to four more children, my brothers and sisters. All the boys lived, but we buried the two little girls. Amai wept for her lost babies and she held me closer to her after that, fearful that she would lose me too.
I always thought that Amai had a special place in her heart, just for me. Maybe she held on to me because she never could hold those two little girls that the ancestors wanted for themselves.

Meet the Author

Na'ima B Robert is descended from Scottish Highlanders on her father's side and the Zulu people on her mother's side. She was brought up in Zimbabwe and went on to university in London.

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