Will I ever see my home again? I do not know.
Will I ever see my father again? I do not know.
Will life ever be the same again? I do not know.
Katie and Tariro are worlds apart but their lives are linked by a terrible secret. 14-year-old Tariro loves her ancestral home, the baobab tree she was born beneath, her loving family - and brave, handsome Nhamo. She couldn't be happier. But then the white settlers arrive, and everything changes - suddenly, violently, and tragically.
Thirty-five years later, 14-year-old Katie loves her doting father, her exclusive boarding school, and her farm with its baobab tree in rural Zimbabwe. Life is great. Until disaster strikes, and the family are forced to leave everything and escape to cold, rainy London.
Far from Home ~ a tall tales & short stories review
One of the things to love about reading a book that takes place in a country or place that you know little about is the fascinating insight it gives the reader. In this case, Zimbabwe is one of those countries that most people are aware of, however vague that knowledge may be, as its problems are rarely far from the news. As an outsider looking in it seems to be a country in the grips of political turmoil, poverty and despair under the rule of a corrupt regime but Far From Home starts long before Mugabe came to power and the story begins under the land reforms and seizures under colonial rule.
Na'ima B Robert provides the reader with an intimate glimpse into the lives of Zimbabwe's indigenous people, their culture and beliefs. We begin with Tariro's story and an insight into her world and the horrors inflicted on her and her family during the brutal land grab at the hands of the colonialists. It's always appalling to learn about the actions of previous generations especially under racist colonial rule but this is just the beginning of the story and Na'ima B Robert manages to encompass decades of Zimbabwe's turbulent history as seen through the eyes of two teenage girls. And if there's a lesson to be learned it seems that in the recent history of Zimbabwe everyone loses in one way or another.
Taking the viewpoint of two teenagers means that the external politics and conflicts are seen only as they immediately affect them but this adds a personal intimacy and strength to the situations and suffering they find themselves forced into. Tariro's perspective is particularly heart-breaking for her and her family and friends, and my heart went out to all those who would have suffered this cruel fate.
As the book progresses, and in more recent times, we follow Katie's story. Although it's hard to find any sympathy for Katie's father or mother, you have to feel for the children brought up in such an environment and knowing no different, because it means that they suffer the confusion and pain of also being uprooted from the only place they know as home.
The baobab tree, central to both the girl's lives, part of the land, part of the country, the only thing that has stayed immutable in the conflict and uncertainty surrounding them, is a powerful symbol of life, birth and death - and perhaps hope.
Never gratuitous, and told with a delicate touch, Far From Home educates and moves in equal measure and I'd thoroughly recommend Far From Home as a moving insight into the struggles of Zimbabwe and its people.
You can read a tall tales & short stories interview with Na'ima B Robert here
Many thanks to Frances Lincoln for sending a copy of Far From Home.