Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This 1997 Newbery Honor book, which is set in Africa, is both a survival story and a spiritual voyage. "[The heroine] is a stunning creationwhile she serves as a fictional ambassador from a foreign culture, she is supremely human. An unforgettable work," said PW in a starred review. Ages 10-14. (Mar.)
The ALAN Review - Teri S. Lesesne
When a cholera epidemic rampages through her village, Nhamo feels partly to blame. After all, a girl whose name translates as "disaster" must have drawn the sickness. Nhamo's family pledges her in marriage to assuage the evil spirits that have caused the illness. Hers will be a loveless marriage: her husband-to-be is more than twice Nhamo's twelve years of age, and so Nhamo flees, seeking refuge with her long-lost father in Zimbabwe. Her trip is fraught with perils, though her adventure serves to strengthen her resolve to become an independent woman. This absorbing tale provides a satisfying knowledge of the culture and customs of Africa in much the same way as Farmer did in The Ear, the Eye and the Arm. This Newbery Honor book and semifinalist for the National Book Award would pair well with Call It Courage and other such stories.
Children's Literature - Marilyn Courtot
This story of the physical and spiritual journey of a young Shona girl will keep readers enthralled until the very last page. Nhamo is faced with an impending marriage to a horrible man who already has a few wives. She decides, with the encouragement of her grandmother, to escape to her father's family in Zimbabwe. It is a trip that should have taken days, but it ends up taking a year. That Nhamo survives and eventually finds a better life for herself is a testament to her courage and character. It is a truly fascinating saga and deserved to be a Newbery Honor book.
School Library Journal
Gr 6-9For Nhamo, an 11-year-old Shona girl living in Mozambique in 1981, life is filled with the traditions of her village people. When family circumstances, a ngozi (angry spirit), and a cholera epidemic force her into a horrible marriage, she flees with only her grandmother's blessings, some gold nuggets, and many survival skills. Still, what should have been a two-day boat trip across the border to her father's family in Zimbabwe spans a year. Daily conversations with spirits help to combat her loneliness and provide her with sage and practical advice. The most incredible leg of her journey is spent on an island where Nhamo closely observes and is warily accepted by a baboon family only to have one of them destroy her shelter and food supply. She makes mistakes, loses heart, and nearly dies of starvation. Even after she arrives in Zimbabwe where she lives with scientists before meeting her father's family, Nhamo must learn to survive in civilization and exorcise the demons that haunt her. A cast of characters, glossary, background information on South Africa and the Shona, and a bibliography ground this novel's details and culture. This story is humorous and heartwrenching, complex and multilayered, and the fortunate child who reads it will place Nhamo alongside Zia (Island of the Dolphins) and Julie (Julie of the Wolves). An engrossing and memorable saga.Susan Pine, New York Public Library
Farmer (Runnery Granary, p. 300, etc.) plunges readers deep into South African social and spiritual worlds in this tale of a Shona girl fleeing an arranged marriage.
When the muvuki, the witchfinder, declares that Nhamo must marry an unsavory stranger to propitiate a murder victim's spirit, Nhamo gathers her few possessions and steals away in the village's only boat, intending to float up the Musengezi to Zimbabwe and find the father she's never known. It's a perilous journey that tests every ounce of her strength, will, and ingenuity: She has to find food in seasons fat and lean, cope with loneliness, face threats from everything from (elusive, perhaps metaphysical) leopards to land mines. Gathering discorporate (imaginary? not to her) companions as she goes, Nhamo lives in and off the wild for months, ending up at last, after finding her father's grave and enduring a cold reception from his family, with the congenial scientists at a tsetse fly research station. Although Farmer describes the history and culture of the Shona and other groups in an afterword, she hardly needs to; the cultural backdrop is so skillfully developed in her protagonist's experiences and responses that it will seem as understandableor, in the case of European and Christian practices, as strangeand immediate to readers as it is to Nhamo. This wonderfully resourceful young woman is surrounded by an equally lively, colorful cast, and by removing many of the borders between human and animal, living and dead, Farmer creates a milieu as vivid and credible as readers' own. As rewarding, and as challenging, as The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm (1994).
From the Publisher
* "An unforgettable work." -- Publishers Weekly, starred review
• "Rewarding." -- Kirkus Reviews, starred review
• "This story is humorous and heart wrenching, complex and multilayered. . . . An engrossing and memorable saga." -- School Library Journal, starred review