STORYLINE: A lone wanderer happens upon a village, where he frees a female who is tied by the foot, like an animal. From there, they meet others whose lives have also been turned upside down. The group sets out on a journey from West Africa and are swept on to the ocean and end up discovering a new world.
Naaba, who doesn’t know how to follow the rules in his village and can’t learn their numeracy system, which makes him an outcast.
Asha, a ‘waterfoot’ who is misunderstood by her fellow villagers and is rescued by Naaba early in the book.
Sule & Deka, brother and sister, who I’ve singled out because of their impact on the group of explorers that eventually become family.
I LIKED: so many things about Misfits & Heroes: West from Africa. The characters have qualities that I understand and relate to. While they are conflicted, each character is also on a mental journey towards maturity and learning to live not only with those around them, but with themselves.
The story moves at a good pace and the reading is easy because the sentences are well constructed, the language simple and engaging. The writer kept the characters’ speech uncomplicated and what I would expect of people speaking thousands of years ago. The research was evident, but not overwhelmingly obvious.
I COULD HAVE LIVED WITHOUT: the many instances where tears came to my eyes when the characters face their frailties and losses on their journey.
COVER NOTE: I like the landscape that stretches from front to back cover and hints at the nature of the story. A fitting cover, I think.
OVERALL COMMENTS: Misfits & Heroes: West from Africa speaks to our fierce human desires. The main characters, Asha and Naaba, decide to travel together, but fall into captivity and eventually split up. They find each other again, and along with a group of displaced people, they travel down a chain of islands and forge a new life.
The group of travellers have diverse issues. One man is a skilled sportsman who was much admired in the past, and cannot comprehend a life in which he is injured and therefore (in his mind) less of a man. Contact with the children (Sule & Deka) bring additional pain because their father helped overthrow the existing order which plunged their society into disorder.
Another man harbours envy in his heart, unable to see beyond the fact that time and his situation are now different. The chief’s daughter has her own emotions to deal with that come from no longer having a comfortable life and not being the centre of attention. A few persons drift away from the main group, but those who stay find love, companionship and family. They learn that despite their challenges and the newness and alien qualities of their existing world, they can and do find happiness and contentment.
I would definitely read other books from Kathleen Flanagan Rollins. I haven’t read any other work of fiction that speaks to numerical systems and their use in ancient Africa. The line drawings provided visual and explanatory support, which I appreciate.
SOURCE: I received Misfits & Heroes from the author in exchange for a review.