This book explores a very uncomfortable truth: this is the 21st century and slavery still exists. Following a murderous raid in her native Nuba village in Sudan, Mende Nazer was kidnapped in 1994 with other native children from that area. Her simple tribal life surrounded by a loving, united family came to an end that night. Sold to an Arab family in Khartoum, she learned to survive by "simply" enduring her fate. She was stripped of dignity and humanity, her desperation worsened by the lack of information about the rest of her family, not knowing whether they had survived the raid. It all made her plunge into a deep depression. She was humiliated, beaten and psychologically abused to a devastating extent and for several years. She was later "passed on" to another family, related to the one in Khartoum. This second family lived in London and it was there, in the year 2000, that Mende's fate changed.
This story is a condensation of facts reported simply and clearly by Mende in first person, beginning with her childhood (a very happy one despite her painful female circumcision at a very young age), all the way through her life and up until the events leading to freedom in London. She was helped in this process by journalist Damien Lewis and the result is a compelling read, where all is pieced together in a very accessible way. Mende's young and sober voice emerges with a powerful resonance in its quiet simplicity, a sad reminder of contemporary slavery. It's like a blow knocking the air out of you.
I am omitting further details as the reading would be spoiled. I abstain from commenting as the book comments itself and also because, no matter how "used" we are to hear about atrocities nowadays, it is difficult to convey in written words the outrage in the knowledge that such horrors still exist. Just one thing: this should be a compulsory read. It is not only informative and an eye-opener, it also goes to show that, thankfully, goodness still exists too, despite everything, and it unites everybody, irrespective of race, religion, social background.