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5.0 out of 5 starsI enjoyed this
Reviewed in the United States on January 23, 2018
This is an excellent read! The author takes you on a journey about their life as well as the adoptive child’s life. It’s a very harrowing story about life, love, and hope. Everyone should read it!
This is an amazing story one that probably happens more often than we would care to think could occur in our modern society. If only someone would have listened to Elijah and believed this child. It is the adults who had a make believe idea of what happened.
Masterfully written. I read it cover to cover as I could not put it down.
Once I finished this book, I had to ask myself why I’d agreed to read and review it in the first place. I knew in advance that the book dealt intimately with the theme of religious ritual child abuse, specifically driving a demon out of a innocent child through abuse so heinous it would qualify as torture. I knew reading a book like that might be extremely difficult because I am an empathetic reader who responds like a mirror to the emotional and physical pain of a book’s characters…especially if the author is skillful at authentic characterization.
Literary books often tackle difficult and controversial themes. I know from past experience that many psychologically traumatic books are worth any psychological pain I might endure because these books can often deliver deep insight into the dark side of the human condition, insight that cannot be achieved through academic knowledge alone. Well-written literary books can also provide profound pleasure simply through their exceptional artistry. Many early reviews of this book described it as being exquisitely well-written; a few reviewers even went so far as saying that this book might be one of the best they were likely to read this year. All that caught my attention. In the end, I weighed the pros and cons and decided to read the book. I am not sorry I did so.
The book had an intense impact on me. I doubt I well ever forget it. It seared its way into my memory. I don’t want to scare you away from reading it. The book is beautifully written. The topic is important. I urge you only to pause before you make your decision and ask yourself if this type of book is right for you. Do you want this type of experience? Do you want this type of knowledge?
Through the book, I learned about religious ritual child abuse, specifically some primitive Nigerian beliefs in witchcraft and how those ancient beliefs can be carried into the heart of present-day London and practiced without any authorities being aware that such things are going on.
This book is a psychological portrait of a child and a family in crisis. The book takes readers deep inside the mind of the child; his mentally disturbed mother; his distraught new adoptive mother, father, grandfather, aunt, and cousin; and the many counselors and social workers assigned to the child’s case.
The child, Elijah, is an exceptionally beautiful boy born in England to young, hopeful, and idealistic Nigerian immigrant parents. When the book opens, we meet Elijah, as a seven-years-old in the process of being adopted by an English family. The adoptive parents are fully aware that Elijah is a survivor of significant physical and emotional abuse and that the child’s mother is committed to a mental institution. They also know the birth mother can never regain custody of her child because of the nature of the abuse and the severity of her mental disease. What they don’t know is any details about what actually happened to him. The boy has scars all over his body, but they don’t know how these scars happened; nor do they know about other forms of abuse that left no permanent physical marks. All these details we the readers—together with the adoptive parents and the social workers—learn over the course of the novel. There are other subplots that I don’t feel I need to disclose. You can discover these if you choose to read the book.
I don’t want to leave you with the impression that the book is primarily bleak. In fact, there are parts that are lovely and charming. After all, you can’t have a book about a child without theds being some touching moments.
Books on topics like this deserve to be written; however, not all readers will want to read them. The writing is outstanding, but not so remarkable that a reader would be missing out on something very special by choosing not to read it. Only you can decide if you want to allow your literary experience to include a journey into this heartwrenching realm.
Elijah is a wizard. Not many little boys have wizards trying to creep out of their skin, and Elijah tries desperately to keep him in. Because the wizard uses its power to hurt the ones Elijah loves. Mama and his papa moved to England from Nigeria shortly after their marriage. Like so many immigrants before them, they wanted a better life. But life away from Nigeria--“a place like heaven”—is far from idyllic. The flat is small and dirty, papa is gone to work and school for long hours, the neighbors are shifty, and Mama has begun to see the red car following her. And then tragedy strikes. Mama runs to Bishop Fortune at Deliverance Church for help, the wizard grows in Elijah, and Mama becomes very, very sick.
So then there were Gary and Sue and Linda and Pete and Nargis and Darren. The wizard, it seemed, couldn’t stay contained for long. At his last house there was a fire. But then Elijah came to live with Nikki and Obi. He had a Granddad, an Aunty Chanel, and a real cousin, Jasmin. (She was a girl, but still. And even better, “the wizard never woke up when she was near.”)
Nikki and Obi knew little about Elijah’s past, other than his birth mother was in Greenfields Women’s Psychiatric Hospital. That he had “thin scars in lines across his chest and back.” And there was that fire. Their social worker and play therapist navigate them through the adoption process and they grow to love this winsome little Nigerian boy with a terrible secret.
The characters in Christie Watson’s novel were spot on. Nikki and Obi love honestly and imperfectly. They worry. They read books like Parenting a Traumatized Child; Healing With Love; Resilience and Outcomes. Granddad loves with an open heart and a big booming laugh. Chanel is a breath of fresh air as she tries to be so hip and inclusive it’s comical.
Writer Christie Watson alternates telling Elijah’s story with Nikki and Obi and letters his Mama writes him from the hospital. Be forewarned: Watson’s story is heart-breaking, and as Elijah’s history unfolded it was difficult to read.
Because sometimes love just isn’t enough. [read more at thisismysymphony.net]
4.0 out of 5 starsAnother good book from Christie Watson
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 19, 2018
Another good book from Christie Watson, I read this directly after finishing Tiny sunbirds and wasn’t disappointed. Christie beautifully balances the effect mental health issues on both the the suffer and immediate family, manipulation and old world beliefs. This book is both thought provoking and heart wrenching - definitely doesn’t disappoint.
5.0 out of 5 starsOne of the best books I have ever read!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on July 24, 2018
Such an amazing book! Christie is a tremendous writer and her portrayal of Elijahs journey was beautifully written. I am an adoptive mother myself so could resonate with Nikki and Obi and their unconditional love for their son. The writing from Deborah was also beautifully written, you could really sense her pain and confusion . I would definitely recommend this book!
Anyone who read 'Tiny Sunbirds........' and got blown away with it, as I did, would want to read Christie Watson's second novel. This tackles very difficult and upsetting problems. It is insightful and very intelligently written. Every element in this story is part of the world we live in. People harm and people do their utmost to help and put right and they don't sadly always succeed. Emotionally this book is not in places the easiest of reads but it has its moments of humour and lightness. Once started you have to finish. I am very glad that I read it. Will always keep an eye out for anything new from Christie Watson.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 2, 2018
This book is written so beautifully. The language is both prosaic and evocative, taking in topics such as grief, mental illness, Nigeria and above all, love. Where Women are Kings will stay in my heart, and the characters will never leave me. Thank you to the author for creating such a spellbinding story of how a family is made and what happens to individuals when life is unspeakably cruel and love is just not enough.