Kirkus Reviews QR Code


by Nancy Farmer

Age Range: 11 - 14

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-531-09539-8
Publisher: Orchard

 Farmer (Runnery Granary, p. 300, etc.) plunges readers deep into South African social and spiritual worlds in this tale of a Shona girl fleeing an arranged marriage. When the muvuki, the witchfinder, declares that Nhamo must marry an unsavory stranger to propitiate a murder victim's spirit, Nhamo gathers her few possessions and steals away in the village's only boat, intending to float up the Musengezi to Zimbabwe and find the father she's never known. It's a perilous journey that tests every ounce of her strength, will, and ingenuity: She has to find food in seasons fat and lean, cope with loneliness, face threats from everything from (elusive, perhaps metaphysical) leopards to land mines. Gathering discorporate (imaginary? not to her) companions as she goes, Nhamo lives in and off the wild for months, ending up at last, after finding her father's grave and enduring a cold reception from his family, with the congenial scientists at a tsetse fly research station. Although Farmer describes the history and culture of the Shona and other groups in an afterword, she hardly needs to; the cultural backdrop is so skillfully developed in her protagonist's experiences and responses that it will seem as understandable--or, in the case of European and Christian practices, as strange--and immediate to readers as it is to Nhamo. This wonderfully resourceful young woman is surrounded by an equally lively, colorful cast, and by removing many of the borders between human and animal, living and dead, Farmer creates a milieu as vivid and credible as readers' own. As rewarding, and as challenging, as The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm (1994). (glossary, appendix, bibliography) (Fiction. 11-14)