... an astonishing fiction debut ... Aisha is everything you want in a heroine: cunning and headstrong, but also fallible ... Every sentence of this novel could be a verse. There are stories within stories here, bursting with truth and wisdom, honoring the rich oral traditions of the Hadrami ... Bajaber is a born storyteller, pulling you along Aisha’s epic quest to know her father’s fate. She punctuates the pathos with knowing humor, as when Aisha poses as a 'keeper of histories' before the fearsome monster Baba wa Papa, or Father of the Shark.
Bajaber weaves together the mythical and the real and uses the cadences of the oral storytelling traditions of Kenya to create a remarkable coming-of-age narrative. Aisha’s sea adventure, evoking memories of Sinbad and Ulysses, is in a sense only a prequel, because when she returns, it is with the thirst for more knowledge. As the story flows, Bajaber offers strongly developed characters and recognizable family dynamics that root this fabulist tale in a cultural context. Bajaber’s debut novel, winner of the first Graywolf Press African Fiction Prize, is imaginative with its personality-infused crows and goats and empathetic in its dramatization of difficult choices.
With its spunky protagonist, foreboding atmosphere, and supernatural elements, this novel would appeal to readers of Karen Russell’s genre-defying Swamplandia and would also be a perfect selection for young adults eager to broaden their literary horizons.
This is a novel of tradition, ritual, and mystical adventure ... Even if you’re not a fan of magical realism, this window into Hadrami culture should at least stoke your curiosity. An adventure tale rife with creatures and immersed in the Hadrami culture of Kenya.
... [a] striking if slightly cluttered debut ... While the loose plot threads and continuous introduction of folkloric creatures don’t all cohere, Bajaber’s depictions of Aisha’s daring episodes and her feminist personality consistently shimmer. Fans of modern fairy tales will find much to appreciate.