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Ancestor stones /

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Format: Book
Language: English
Published: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2006
Edition: First American edition.
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The author of the rapturously acclaimed memoir The Devil That Danced on the Water seamlessly turns her hand to fiction and delivers a novel that is a lush and beautiful portrait of several generations of African women. In Ancestor Stones , a young woman from West Africa, who has lived in England for many years, returns after years of civil war. The family's coffee plantation has been placed in her hands, and she turns to her aunts--women who were mysterious and a bit intimidating to her younger self--who begin to tell their stories.  They are timeless tales of rivalrous co-wives, patriarchal society, and old religions challenged by Islamic and Christian incursions; they are modern stories of European-owned mining companies, the repressive influence of mission schools, corrupt elections, and the postcolonial African elite. Through their voices a family history interwoven with the history of a country emerges--one of a society both ancient and modern, of a family of strong women refusing to live as second-class citizens. Powerful and sensuously written, Ancestor Stones is a wonderful achievement that recalls The God of Small Things and The Joy Luck Club , and establishes Forna as a gifted novelist.

Review by Choice Review

This debut novel is Forna's second book. Coming in the footsteps of her critically acclaimed The Devil That Danced on Water: A Daughter's Memoir (2002), Ancestor Stones reads much like a memoir but--perhaps for that reason--is less compelling than her earlier work. Told in the first person, this is the story of the Khotta family. Forna explores place and past, juxtaposing the differences between West Africa and London against a generation of women's stories. The end result is a novel that is readable but not particularly challenging. Summing Up: Optional. General readers only. N. M. Peeterse George Mason University

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Booklist Review

Forna follows up her memoir, The Devil That Danced on the Water0 (2003) ,0 with a novel that explores relationships among co-wives in an African village as they cope with religious and political changes that wreak instability in the family complex. Abie is a young woman from West Africa who has lived in England for many years. She left as a child, went to college, and married a Scotsman, with only infrequent visits to keep her attached to her homeland. When she inherits her father's coffee plantation, she returns to face memories and to confront realities of a troubled nation that she has only viewed on the television screen. In simple, subtle stories, Forna conveys the complexity of life in small African villages as Abie's aunts recall their youth, courtships, and lives as co-wives, finding friendships or bitter rivalries. Through the stories of these women, Abie learns of old folkways and modern religious and political strife, as well as enduring lessons of family and kinship. --Vanessa Bush Copyright 2006 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Acclaimed memoirist Forna (The Devil That Danced on the Water) glides into fiction with this sweeping portrayal of the lives of five Sierra Leonean women. Abie-a young woman born and raised in Sierra Leone, who now lives in London with her Portuguese-Scottish husband and their children-receives a letter from her aunts informing her they're bequeathing her the family coffee plantation. When Abie returns, her aunts offer her another gift: their stories. A native of Sierra Leone, Forna unpacks Abie's family history (and that of Sierra Leone) using the alternating points of view of Abie's four aunts-Asana, Mary, Hawa and Serah. Asana outlives two husbands and eventually opens her own store, "relinquishing the birthright of womanhood in exchange for the liberty of a man." Mary addresses the changes brought to Africa by the Europeans (prominent among them, the mirror she uses to examine her disfigured face). Hawa trades her gold earrings for bus fare in order to see the sea just once in her life. And Serah opens a voting station during corrupt national elections. Though it's a stretch to call this a novel (each chapter is a self-contained story), Forna's work sheds light on the history of a long-struggling nation. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

Abie, a West African woman who has lived in London for years, learns that she has inherited the family coffee plantation in her native village. Abie returns to consider her inheritance and visits with four of her aunts, daughters of four of the 11 wives of her great-grandfather. The aunts tell Abie their life stories, which span nearly a century. They describe the founding of the village and the coffee plantation, what it was like seeing a white man for the first time, the end of colonialism, the first elections, political and religious upheaval, and the social implications of polygamous families. Because of the shifting time periods, the array of names, and the complicated family connections, the characters blend together, and it is difficult to identify each from one story to the next. However, Forna, whose memoir, The Devil That Danced on the Water, received critical acclaim, beautifully crafts an intimate portrait of the evolution of one West African community. Without didacticism, she illuminates the intricacies of the relationships and customs and the progress and decline of this particular family. Highly recommended for all libraries collecting fiction. Rebecca Stuhr, Grinnell Coll. Libs., IA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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