September 18, 2012

African coming-of-age novel

Between Sisters
by Adwoa Badoe

When sixteen-year-old Gloria fails most of the subjects on her final exams, she realizes she'll never be a Somebody. She's a Nobody stuck in Accra with no running water, an unemployed father, and an ill mother. So her family are thrilled when a distant relative, Christine, offers to take Gloria to Kumasi to look after her young son. In exchange, Christine will pay for Gloria's future schooling.

Life in Kumasi is better than anything Gloria has ever experienced. She loves Christine's modern apartment, with its television and indoor plumbing. She makes new friends, joins a youth band at church, and, tutored by Christine, is learning how to read. She calls Christine "Sistah" and believes that they are as close as real sisters.

But Kumasi is also full of temptations. Gloria's friend Bea gets her interested in partying and fashion, the owner of a popular clothing shop encourages her to buy on credit, and the smooth-talking Dr. Kusi offers Gloria rides in his sports car. He proclaims his love for her and even gives her money. Things fall apart when Bea steals from Christine, who blames Gloria for the theft. On top of that, Dr. Kusi is seeing another woman. Thus Gloria realizes that things are not as rosy as they seem. Christine is not really her sister and some men are not to be trusted.

Between Sisters is a different kind of coming-of-age novel, set in a country (Ghana) that few teens have visited. Badoe immerses readers in a whole new culture with unique attitudes, customs, and cuisine. She also has Gloria deal with some difficult issues, such as AIDS, teen pregnancy, and unpaid work. The novel is sure to have young readers pondering life choices, especially when faced by Gloria's incredible naïveté. It clearly shows the disadvantages of poverty and poor education, without being too depressing or heavy-handed. A thought-provoking novel.

No comments: