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Yellow Room Kindle Edition
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Top customer reviews
The writing is effortless and elegant, quite beautiful in its precise selection of words but surprisingly easy and comfortable to read - except in its subject matter at times. There is love in this book, sometimes evident (I adored Chala's relationship with her father in all its phases), sometimes difficult to sustain, often difficult to show. The Kenyan scenes are sometimes harrowing and difficult to read, but also so vividly described that you can feel and smell the tension, and appreciate the stark contrasts between exceptional beauty and desperate ugliness.
I guess it's quite unusual to single out for praise the postscript to the book which sets out its inspiration. It pulled together my thoughts after I'd reached the end - around secrets, "spaces in togetherness", the issue of identity, the Kenyan backdrop. It also includes a stunning sentence that sums up the book perfectly:
"Secrets are like scars that heal over a wound that never quite disappears."
This is a book that defies categorisation, and it was certainly quite a departure from my usual reads - but I'm so glad to have had the opportunity to experience it.
Chala has grown up with the knowledge that, at four years of age, she accidentally killed her baby sister, an event that has haunted every aspect of her life. Unable to cope with the death of their baby her guardians separated. When Chala’s role in the accident became known at school she was cast out by all except her loyal best friend. Chala struggles to cope with the burden of her guilt seeking some means by which she may make amends.
She decides to fly to Kenya as a volunteer at a shelter for rescued street children. Chala wishes to offer practical help, to make a difference. She soon comes to realise that the problems in Africa cannot be solved by western aid; that what is reported abroad is a snapshot, a construct of a foreign media which soon loses interest and moves on.
What seems like wanton cruelty to western eyes goes unnoticed by those who struggle to survive. When a man has spent his entire life being kicked he thinks nothing of kicking a dog. When human bodies lie in the road a dead donkey will not be mourned. Life is cheap and perilous. Those who offer help are appreciated but it is not their efforts that will make a difference long term. Change must come from within.
Chala is changed. She has seen first hand how childhood experiences can seep through and damage the adult, how bad choices can ruin a life. She may walk away from the violence and hunger of Africa but she cannot walk away from herself.
And now Chala harbours another secret, another guilt from a bad choice she made. Determined to do as her uncle implored, to hold on to what she has got, she returns home to attempt to make a life with her husband, Paul. Unbeknown to her Paul also has a secret. What unfolds threatens to tear them apart.
As a reader I felt the raw emotions of the protagonists as they wrestled with their consciences. Is it better to be open and honest when the truth threatens to destroy; should some secrets be kept?
“Why do we have secrets? Whether they are born of fear or shame, denial or the urge to protect or avoid hurting another, so often they create pain and guilt. We pay a price for the things we keep bottled inside us, and sometimes the bottle bursts.”
After all that had gone before, the denouement was satisfying and uplifting. Life is complex and the fallout from decisions rarely predictable. Still though, it goes on.
I am in awe of this author who can put into words the emotions that bubble beneath the surface of a life. I loved this book and cannot recommend it highly enough. When you have the chance, read it.
My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Cutting Edge Press.
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