23 March 2015

Review: Where Women Are Kings by Christie Watson

Where Women Are Kings by Christie WatsonI don't usually review books well before their publishing date, but I need to talk about Christie Watson's Where Women Are Kings now.

This beautiful novel is both a simple story of a little boy who needs love and understanding and a complex look at cultural differences, love, family, social services, child abuse, and mental illness. It's achingly tender and horrifically realistic. It's hopeful and it's devastating.

Little Elijah knows two things: His mama loves him and a wizard lives inside him. He also knows that if he ever tells anyone about the wizard, he will never see his mama again. But the wizard is so hard to keep inside, and when it crawls out his nose or mouth, it does bad things.

I found it very difficult to write about Where Women Are Kings because it packs such a huge emotional punch. Some parts are almost impossible to fathom, such as learning about how seven-year-old Elijah, the son of Nigerian immigrants, came to the attention of the UK social services system. Some parts bring us hope, especially as Elijah begins to respond to his new foster parents. But Watson doesn't give us a simple dichotomy: There is love in the most terrible places, and there is fear in the most supportive.

One of the strongest aspects of the novel is Watson's sensitive portrayal of Elijah's mother, Deborah, who becomes unhinged after her husband's death, just months after their son is born. Paranoia, depression, and a mix of Western and African religions pull Deborah into a dark place with no chance of escape. Alone in London, she turns in desperation to a local spiritual leader, who ends up exploiting her fears, sealing her and Elijah's fate.

I won't soon forget young Elijah--with his love and hope, fear and scars. He will steal your heart. Where Women Are Kings is a powerful, stunningly real novel. Put Christie Watson on your permanent must-read list.

Published by Other Press, April 28, 2015
ISBN-13: 9781590517093
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


Beth Hoffman 3/23/15, 10:08 AM  

You've hooked me! I'll put this book on my list.

rhapsodyinbooks 3/23/15, 12:02 PM  

But is it upsetting? It sounds upsetting...

Belle Wong 3/24/15, 12:10 AM  

This definitely sounds upsetting. And intense. And perhaps heartbreaking, in its own way?

Daryl 3/24/15, 11:19 AM  

making a note of this one ... thanks!

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks 7/14/15, 10:51 PM  

If I hadn't just finished the novel,, your review would have me reaching for it.
Your observations about love and fear are so true!

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