Told from the point of view of Blessing, who is twelve when we first meet her, Tiny Sunbirds is the story of a Nigerian family uprooted from their comfortable existence in Lagos when the mother catches the father cheating. Forced to move to Warri in the Niger Delta, Blessing and her brother Ezikiel are introduced to a lifestyle quite different from what they've known. They're also re-introduced to their somewhat mysterious grandmother and their proud grandfather and this is where the adventure really begins. Through the eyes of twelve year old Blessing, the reader is made aware of female circumcision and environmental issues resulting from foreign oil companies.
When the children first arrive in Warri, Ezikiel seems to be the responsible one while Blessing has her head in the clouds. As they mature, and they're influenced both by the company they keep and their surroundings, their roles are reversed. Blessing becomes the more stable of the two, while Ezikiel becomes restless and out of control. His direct confrontations with her mother's white boyfriend are not at all in character for who he was. It's fascinating to watch him evolve from a polite, studious teen to a disrespectful, fanatical one.
What did you like about this book?
I loved the moments shared between Blessing and her grandmother. Even though her mother doesn't want her to, Blessing follows in the footsteps of her grandmother and I loved watching her pass on her knowledge.
Every character was fully utilized in this story. Often secondary characters are given a line or two, but the author makes full use of them and it makes the story more complete. I was especially appreciative of Celestine. Like a court jester, she provided comic relief at times when it was much needed.
What didn't you like about this book?
I wouldn't say it was a dislike, but when Blessing is finally reunited with the father she worships, he's in such a distasteful state. I would have almost rather she had never reunited with him than to deal with what he had become since she last saw him.
What could the author do to improve this book?
At first I was skeptical of the children's mother's relationship with Dan, an oil worker. Perhaps if the author had given us a first person glimpse of Mama's life outside of the household, it would have been easier to accept.
Published: May 2011
Disclosure: Galley received from the publisher.