Title notwithstanding, historical events in Ghana remain largely offstage as a 12-year-old, recently arrived from Canada, struggles to cope with her mother’s descent into a nervous breakdown.
Astrid’s father, invited to Accra to help organize a national election, is usually away at work. This leaves her to juggle school, two younger sibs, and a stay-at-home parent whose fear of the local food, water, wildlife and people has resulted in frantic overprotectiveness, irrationally strict rules about permissible activities and increasingly violent emotional outbursts. The domestic tension comes to a head when malaria strikes brother Gordo. Then, amid the widespread turmoil caused by Flight Lt. Jerry Rawlings’ coup (this is 1979, as the historical note informs readers), a soldier robs Astrid’s mother at gunpoint. Otherwise, the violence and unrest are conveyed here more through radio broadcasts and overheard conversations than direct experience. Jones focuses instead on Astrid’s courage, good sense and fundamental kindness in the face of her deteriorating mother’s mood swings and growing distraction, the frustration of being continually kept in the dark by adults about what’s going on in the larger world and the overwhelming responsibility of caring for her brother and sister. Along with hearing her Ghanaian friends’ conflicting feelings about their new government, Astrid weathers her challenges at home admirably.
A thought-provoking study of a family caught up in both political and domestic crises in a foreign land. (Historical fiction. 11-13)