Still Waters in Niger

Still Waters in Niger

by Kathleen Hill
Still Waters in Niger

Still Waters in Niger

by Kathleen Hill


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A New York Times Notable Book for 1999
Best Fiction of 1999, the Los Angeles Times Book Review
Starred review, Publishers Weekly 
Finalist for 1998 Dublin IMPAC Literary Award

The narrator of this book is an Irish-American woman who returns to the West African country of Niger where she had lived seventeen years earlier as the wife of an academic and the mother of three young daughters. Now she is visiting her eldest daughter, Zara, who has herself returned to Africa during a season of devastating drought and is working in a village clinic that cares for women and children suffering from starvation.

Still Waters in Niger is a beautifully observed account of a return to a place at once exotic and familiar, as well as a tale of inner discovery. As the narrator reacquaints herself with her daughter and with the Africa of her past, she meets other mothers and their children. With her own memories of young motherhood strong, she becomes aware of the strikingly similar ways in which the impassioned and often difficult bonds between mothers and daughters are revealed across the divide of cultures. Hill paints a compelling portrait of a community of women grounded in kinship and care for their children, a society characterized not only by pain and exhaustion but by humor, delicacy, and strength. Filled with vivid, elegant descriptions and meditations on hunger, poverty, the desert, women, memory, and the love between mothers and daughters, Still Waters in Niger is the haunting story of a woman looking simultaneously backward and forward.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780810151345
Publisher: Northwestern University Press
Publication date: 03/06/2002
Edition description: 1
Pages: 206
Sales rank: 745,961
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Kathleen Hill's fiction and essays have been published in Best American Short Stories 2000, Pushcart Prize XXV, Kenyon Review, and Prairie Schooner. The original publication of Still Waters in Niger (Northwestern,1999) was nominated for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and was among the Notable Books of the Year in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune. A French translation of Still Waters in Niger entitled Eaux Tranquilles was published by Editions Phébus in 2000 and was shortlisted for the Prix Femina Etranger. Hill currently teaches in the Writing Program at Sarah Lawrence College and lives in New York City.

Read an Excerpt

When I read this novel, I realized I'd been hoping to find it for decades. Here were qualities of beauty, seriousness, distinction, tenderness, and moral sense, conveyed in a prose as austere and lavish as the desert landscape it evokes. Kathleen Hill's theme is hunger for an authentic relationship with her daughter, the hunger and fortitude of a people faced with drought and crop failure, and finally, spiritual hunger for reconciliation of the human and the divine. This is the most exciting debut since Marilynne Robinson's Housekeeping.

Table of Contents

Part IZinder
Auto gare7
The Street14
Boissons Fraiches24
The Fort30
The Hostel37
The House45
Part IIMatameye
New Moon51
Moon in First Quarter63
Full Moon82
Moon in Third Quarter152
Part IIIZinder
First Call to Prayer: Fajr176
Second Call to Prayer: Zubr186
Third Call to Prayer: Asr193

What People are Saying About This

Robert Coles

Here is a novel of fine social and cross-cultural observation, and too, of moral inwardness—a wonderfully knowing storyteller with a strong spiritual bent tells us so very much about idealism and its vicissitudes, parenthood and its possibilities.

Andrea Barrett

Subtle, elegant, and beautifully written, this apparently quiet novel is in fact surprisingly subversive. It captures, as few other books do, the deepest bonds of mothers and daughters and the unswerving persistence of memory.

Mary Gordon

A beautiful book, with great lyric power and emotional resonance. We desperately need to know more about the experience of motherhood, and in combining her passion for her daughter with her passion to experience and to know the world, Kathleen Hill makes a great contribution to our store of information about how women live. Her evocations of Africa, of the lives of women in Africa, give range and depth to her story, and carry it from the home into the world. I am full of admiration for this small miracle.

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