Reviewer: Sheila Grant
Publisher: Jacaranda October 2021
ISBN: 781-013090760 HB
This is an intense and moving story of two young African girls at a time when abolition was gaining ground, unknown or perhaps ignored in their remote village.
Fatmata, and her little sister, Salimatu, witness the destruction of their village as marauders burn down the homes and abduct any of their family deemed worth selling, murdering those perceived as worthless, The girls and their brothers are marched onwards to they know not where and cruelly separated. Fatmata’s attempts to protect her sister fail when she wakes to find her gone, abducted by an evil man, possibly to be used as a sacrifice.
Fatmata is one of many shipped like cattle in disgusting conditions to America , where despite being among other black people she is not fully accepted and is seen as ‘different’. Her name is changed to Faith, and as a slave to a well off family she is treated with abuse.
Salimatu also has a name change becoming Sarah Forbes Bonetta, but is more fortunate, taken to England and absorbed into a family who are all for abolition. Her story, which is true, was the trigger for this excellent book.
The chapters alternate between the two sisters relating life as they now see it, but do not fully understand, and reflecting on what they have lost, while anxious as to what lies ahead. It would be a hard hearted reader who was not emotionally affected with the struggle both these girls endure. Their lives are stressful, as they try to gauge how they should behave, speak, re-act and obey in a life totally alien to anything they ever witnessed. Faith and Sarah are living totally different lives but very similar distress. They never lose the will or the hope that they will be one day reunited.
The result is a gripping and emotional tale, a heartrending read that is very close to historical accuracy, and a birds’ eye view of the horror of slavery. The writing is tight and conveys perfectly the despair and confusion in the minds of two youngsters torn from home and literally flung into a totally unfamiliar environment where they are greeted with suspicion and mistrust.
A challenging read well worth sticking with that will create much on which to reflect. A book that will linger on in this reader’s mind for a very long time.