*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*
Title: Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree
Author: Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Publication Date: September 4, 2018
Synopsis from Goodreads:
On April 14, 2014, Boko Haram kidnapped 276 girls. Some managed to escape. Many are still missing. A new pair of shoes, a university degree, a husband—these are the things that a girl dreams of in a Nigerian village. A girl who works hard in school and to help her family. A girl with a future as bright as live coals in the dark. And with a government scholarship right around the corner, everyone—her mother, her five brothers, her best friend, her teachers—can see that these dreams aren’t too far out of reach. Even if the voices on Papa’s radio tell more fearful news than tales to tell by moonlight. But the girl’s dreams turn to nightmares when her village is attacked by Boko Haram, a terrorist group, in the middle of the night. Kidnapped, she is taken with other girls and women into the forest where she is forced to follow her captors’ radical beliefs and watch as her best friend slowly accepts everything she’s been told. Still, the girl defends her existence. As impossible as escape may seem, her life—her future—is hers to fight for.
This book was terrifying, moving, heart-breaking, and so real that it took my breath away. In short chapters, almost like journal entries, this book tells one girls story as her hopes of education and a successful life beyond her village are dashed as Boko Haram devastates their community, and others, across Nigeria. The girls are stolen away from their family and forced into slavery. Christian girls are converted to Muslim and all girls must learn the Quran and Sharia Law. They are forced to follow the radical Islam that the Boro Haram members preach as the ultimate truth. When the girls are ready, they are married to members of the terrorist group.
The short vignette style of writing moves this story along quickly, but at a heart-pounding pace. It pulls you along in a whirlwind and you’re caught up in the horrific action of the terrorists much as the protagonist is. It’s an incredibly emotional read. The story runs with an undercurrent of fear, loss, and unknown. The characters in this story lose everything, including themselves, to the radicalism of Boko Haram.
The story is paired with an afterword by journalist, Viviana Mazza, whose words and experiences bring this book to life. We’re reminded that this is not just a work of fiction, that this story is one of thousands of other stories, that these girls do suffer the cruel fate of the characters in this book. Viviana’s writing does provide some hope as she explains the aid work that is being done to help reunite these girls with their families and communities, however they cannot save everyone.
This book is an incredibly powerful YA story that can be read by young adults and adults alike. There is so much to be learned and realized between these pages.