London-born Elijah is just 5 years old when he's taken from his Nigerian birth mother, Deborah, because of signs of abuse, but he still dreams of her when adopted by the British foster parents—one white, one of Nigerian origin—who are determined to heal his wounds and give him a new life.
Elijah’s much-anticipated birth was a moment of joy for Deborah and her husband, Akpan. But with Apkan’s death a few months afterward, Deborah finds herself alone in a foreign country, separated from her homeland and family. She falls into a deep depression, convinced something is wrong with baby Elijah. Seeking help, Deborah turns to her faith, but Bishop Fortune Oladipo, owner and manager of Deliverance Christian Church, is less interested in helping her than in manipulating this sick, desperate woman out of her entire life savings. Bishop Fortune convinces Deborah that Elijah is “possessed by evil” and needs a series of increasingly expensive and dangerous treatments to “exorcise a demon from Elijah’s body,” one treatment being a bath in a “medicine” that turns out to be skin-burning acid. Even after child protective services removes Elijah from Deborah and places him in foster care, Elijah still believes he has an evil spirit, or “wizard,” living inside him and forcing him to do bad things. And what Elijah feels the “wizard” wants him to do will have life-and-death consequences for Elijah and his new adoptive family. Although there is more than a whiff of exotic otherness in the crafting of the African characters, Watson (Tiny Sunbirds, Far Way, 2011) wins when the love Deborah feels for Elijah comes to the fore. Rather than demonizing Deborah, her story becomes a call for social action in the Dickensian tradition, highlighting the need for better postpartum services, better child welfare services and better mental health services.
A multilayered, sophisticated book that gets to the heart of what family is and what we will do to love them.