The narrative of the stories is richly descriptive, written so well that the accents and dialects of the culture he is describing instantly become as second nature while reading. The first story grabbed me from the opening paragraph, and as I became grossly engaged in the outcome, I continued to read until nearly 4:00am that first session.
The family dynamics of this first tale took me aback; it is a story that would rival any television show portraying stark cold reality. The characters are explained from the viewpoint of a young boy who sees his life as somewhat normal. He narrates about his impoverished family living in a lean-to on the street, dealing with street crime, child prostitution, lack of food, non-existent health care and drug dependencies, who in spite of these limitations, manage to celebrate Christmas in this bizarre setting. It is truly unforgettable and creates an overwhelming sense of gratitude for my own blessed childhood.
The second story, which is much longer, engages a depth of feeling for its characters and their plight, reminding me once again, of my own good fortune to have had healthy parents who provided nutritional meals, schooling, clean clothes and a nice place to live. The story is woven in the horrors of childhood when lacking these basic items taken for granted by many children in this country. Truly a compelling read.
ConsThe subject matter is for mature audiences and not for the faint of heart; the voices that cry out for relief from child trafficking and abuse will haunt your dreams. They did mine for days.
It's only since my retirement from the corporate world I've finally watched any daytime television. From the popular daytime TV talk shows I've developed a few favorites, among those of course, is Oprah. Using TIVO allows me to record and edit as I desire which, thankfully, reduces the time investment to a shortened segment of the real message. On one such episode in November '09, Oprah's invited guest was an African Author named Uwem Akpan.
I was truly impressed by this man's demeanor and humility, who when asked what he would like most said something to the effect of, "It would be my highest aim to be read and enjoyed by many." How true this rang to me as an aspiring author and how inspirational.
For Christmas I asked for a copy of his book Say You're One Of Them after hearing Anderson Cooper's comment about the stories Uwem Akpan wrote in the book; the stories are fictional but from real life. This struck a chord with me as a would-be author, who is struggling to capture on paper the memories I have from a life time of various careers.