Posts Tagged ‘Swaziland’

When Hoopoes Go to Heaven is the sequel to Gaile Parkin’s international best seller, Baking Cakes in Kigali. The Tungaraza family has moved to Swaziland, and ten year old Benedict, the “eldest son,” isn’t sure about all the changes going on around him. His mama, Angel, can’t find customers for her cakes. His brothers prefer kicking balls and his sisters like spending time with the girls next door; he wishes he had someone who enjoyed exploring nature with him.

But the unsettling things in Benedict’s life are beyond his family; he feels “like water that somebody had sent a stone skipping across.” There is an illness no one likes to speak of, and it’s killing a lot of people; a strange report of planes flying into buildings in America; a teacher at the high school who seems to be frightening his friend. Benedict hears all of it, and many other things he doesn’t quite understand, even though Mama sends him out when she and Baba discuss grown up things.

I enjoyed the way Parkin explored societal challenges – drugs, crime, epidemics, inequality, discrimination, gender issues, and even just ordinary family problems – through a child’s eyes. It made me reflect on what unsettling things my own kids heard snippets of growing up. And as in her first book, Parkin brings Africa alive with vivid descriptions that help the reader see, hear, feel, smell, and taste what Benedict is seeing, hearing, smelling, feeling, and tasting. I like a book that takes me not only into someone else’s life, but also to places I’ve never been.

Evenings in the bookconscious house are for catching up with each other these days, so I’m finding myself with less time to read. I would probably have enjoyed When Hoopoes Go to Heaven more if I’d read in longer stretches than 10 minutes here or there.

How do you read when your time is limited?

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