* From Channel Ten, The Circle for review *
Obinna's life of tending goats in a small village in Sudan comes crashing around his ears one night when rebels enter the village looking for blood and new recruits to fight in the ongoing civil war. The rebels determine potential recruits by measuring the height of young boys against that of an AK-47. Those taller than the AK-47 are rounded up and taken from the village and those shorter are spared.
What makes Beneath The Darkening Sky amazing is that Australian Sudanese refugee Majok Tulba is writing from experience; rebels came for him on two occasions. The first time he was too short and the second time he was so sick the rebels decided he was going to die in a few days anyway. Well Tulba survived and made it to a refugee camp and in 2001 came to Australia and Beneath The Darkening Sky is a fictionalised story of what might have happened had he been taken.
Given the subject matter, you would be forgiven for assuming this would be a difficult and dark read with possible political over/undertones however be prepared for a pleasant surprise. This is an incredibly moving read without any political agenda.
Both Obinna and his older brother Akot are kidnapped by the rebels and begin their training as soldiers. Obinna resists the doctrine with all his might, singing Sunday school songs under his breath instead of the party songs and befriending an older soldier by the name of Priest who acts as a mentor and friend.
Obinna longs to return to his village and his observations and innocence are so clear to the reader it's both beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time. Time moves on and Priest guides Obinna, teaching him how to survive at the rebel camp.
Beneath The Darkening Sky is incredibly moving and a breathtaking read. The writing is superb and there are some wonderful moments that have stayed with me after reading. I haven't wanted to put it back on the bookshelf after reading, which is a sign of a great book.
My rating = *****