Kirkus Reviews Starred Review
Doherty artfully plaits parallel stories of two girls from different worlds whose lives ultimately intersect. An only child living in Sheffield, England, 13-year-old Rosa loves ice-skating with her single parent Mum “more than anything else in the world.” But when her mother wants to adopt a little girl, Rosa feels hurt and betrayed. Worlds away, nine-year-old Abela lives in a Tanzanian village where she and her mother spend hours each day pounding corn into flour. But Abela’s mother has AIDS and nothing Abela does can save her. When her uncle illegally sends her to England, Abela follows her mother’s advice to remain strong even though she’s alone, alienated from her culture and forced to live in seclusion. Eventually rescued and placed in foster care, Abela remains desperately homesick while waiting for a permanent family. Meanwhile, Rosa changes her mind about having an adopted sister when she realizes why her mother wants another child. Despite Abela’s sometimes distressing and disturbing treatment, this is an inspiring and compelling narrative of how two special girls with a shared heritage become a family.
In a village in Tanzania, Africa, nine-year-old AIDS orphan Abela is tricked by her uncle into leaving her beloved grandmother and traveling on a forged passport to England. Once there, she finds herself locked up alone and in danger until she’s finally able to run away. In Sheffield, England, Rosa, 13, is blissfully happy with her loving single-parent mom until Mom decides to adopt a child: Is Rosa no longer good enough? Of course, it’s clear that the girls will eventually get together, but tension builds in their alternating narratives, which include many truly surprising twists and turns along the way. Most powerful is the contrast between the protected daughter in a safe family and the unwanted orphan sustained by memories of the loving village community she has lost. The parallel stories of unbearable sorrow and hope dramatize what family means. — Hazel Rochman
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Ten year old Abela sees lions as she walks alone all night from the city hospital where her mother has just died of AIDS to her grandmother’s hut in a rural Tanzanian village. Meanwhile in London, thirteen year old Rosa, whose Tanzanian father returned to his native country, has just learned that her British mother would like to adopt an orphan from Tanzania. Rosa is not sure that she wants a little sister but she finds it difficult to explain this anxiety to her mother. The stories of Rosa and Abela alternate until they finally merge near the end of this inspirational tale of triumph over adversity. Abela’s new life begins when she is put on a plane to London by her scheming Uncle Thomas, who hopes to use the girl as part of a plan to gain British citizenship for himself. Thomas’s schemes fall apart, but Abela is assisted by kind social workers, and she eventually survives a new set of challenges in the strange, cold country in which she has landed.
Without slowing the pace of the story, Doherty packs a great deal of information about the AIDS crises in Africa, female genital mutilation, international adoptions, the foster care system, and many challenges facing parentless children and the social workers who try to place them. Girls will love this emotionally powerful novel, driven by strong female characters who forma sister-hood that transcends differences of age, race, and culture. - Walter Hogan