One of the most memorable novels I’ve read with my fellow book club members is Christie Watson’s Tiny Sunbirds, Far Away. Now Watson has returned with yet another powerful and gut wrenching novel, Where Women Are Kings (Other Press).
Nikki and Obi have waited so long to fill the child-sized whole in their hearts when seven-year-old Elijah joins their family. He was taken away from his birth mother, a Nigerian immigrant in England. His body and mind are covered with scars, and he has a history of disruptive and violent behavior. While her neighbors are shocked that Nikki, who is white, adopted Elijah, she has no doubt in her ability to raise a black son.
Elijah hesitantly settles into his new family, but believes that he is possessed by a demon. He’s finally found a small spot of happiness but fears that this demon will ruin his chance at happiness. Nikki and Obi love Elijah deeply, but what they learn about his past threatens to tear the delicate balance they’ve created.
While I loved this novel, this book was an emotional read for me. As a mother, it’s hard for me to read about children with painful, abusive pasts. Christie Watson approaches the sensitive topic with dexterity and without forcing judgement on the religious and cultural beliefs of Elijah’s birth mother.
It’s easy to categorize Elijah’s story as black versus white, but I see the novel more of a discussion of white western culture versus what we consider third-world countries. Does being the dominant culture make ours better? How do we find a balance between the two, as Obi and his Nigerian father have found?
Where Women Are Kings by Christie Watson releases tomorrow. I highly recommend it because her words will touch you forever.