Debut author de Carvalho offers a semiautobiographical novel about a young woman’s perilous journey from Africa to Europe.
Growing up in the African nation of Angola, Luciana faces a difficult home life with an abusive father and a country engulfed in violent civil war. Her daily struggle is painfully real: “At home; it was always beatings, blows, shouting ‘can’t do that, can’t do this, can’t smile, can’t play, can’t joke with one another.’ ” When she’s nine, she and her family leave Angola for France before eventually finding asylum in the United Kingdom. However, Luciana still can’t escape the difficulties of her own family. Throughout it all, however, she “refused to be hurt and become a victim; I also had my own strong character and will which; I never lost.” She also garners strength from a belief in God: “I knew and believed in GOD’s plan for my life, and I still believe and know that there is much more for me from GOD almighty.” Overall, her story is one of perseverance, and she gleans a host of life lessons from her experiences, such as when she comes to the aid of a friend: “judge the situation first; don’t be always just say yes.” However, readers will find that navigating the prose can prove challenging, as some passages are awkwardly phrased, including this description of life in England: “For many years since the family eloped to the UK seeking political asylum my father did not work, actually since he escaped from my country even when; good jobs opportunity came his way he shattered it and chose to live off benefits.” The challenges of the text are not without pleasures, though, such as when a horrible smell is described as being “as loud as a Lion roaring wild noise.” The book is enlivened with smatterings of Portuguese, and although the convergence of languages isn’t seamless, the authentic feel of the work is beyond question. It’s an undeniably personal, if unpolished, account of the refugee experience that takes readers to places they won’t expect to go.
A roughly constructed work but one that never lacks honesty.