Nani's Tale by Corey Fair

Nani's Tale

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A little girl struggles to find love and salvation against terrifying odds in this debut novel.

Fair’s story centers on an 11-year-old girl named Nani, who, as the story opens, lives with her mother and her mother’s boyfriend, Calvin Smith, who doesn’t “do nothing but shoot dope, get drunk, beat me, and boss my mom around.” Nani at first thinks of smooth-talking and charismatic Calvin as a kind of superhero, but that attractive facade quickly falls away to reveal a violent man of ungovernable rages. He makes life a hell of anxiety and fear for both Nani and her mother, and things only get worse when Calvin’s 11-year-old son, Roger, comes to live with them. Roger is every bit as terrified of Calvin as Nani and her mother are, but he’s also predatory toward Nani, trying to take advantage of her while she’s too innocent to know what he’s doing (“During that time in my life,” the narrator tells us, “a part of me died too”). During a particularly harrowing scene, Roger’s perversions are revealed to Calvin with sudden and tragic consequences that underscore the chancy, dangerous world of Nani’s childhood. As Calvin’s vicious temper grows steadily worse, life in that world becomes the stuff of nightmares (“I wished my life was just a dream,” Nani thinks, “and that I could wake up to find out that none of the bad things in it had ever existed”). She seems doomed, but suddenly at school one day she meets her “angel,” a fourth-grader named Danny Rogers. He protects her from bullies and introduces her to his family (his father is a minister); for the first time in her life, Nani feels accepted and loved. Fair casts her narrative in Nani’s point of view, and the juxtaposition of the character’s youth and tragic circumstances can make for some grippingly tough reading. At one point, Nani barely survives a house fire (“My skin felt like a million fire ants were biting me. My eyes were hurting and stinging. I thought I was going to die”). After her prolonged ordeal with the drug-crazed Calvin, Nani’s redemption with the Rogers family feels comparatively rushed and shallow. But by that point, readers should forgive anything that gets her out of the inferno.

A taut and rewarding tale about a young girl’s frightening life and last-minute rescue.

Pub Date: Feb. 17th, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-9973076-0-3
Page count: 142pp
Publisher: Just Write Publishing
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 2016