Abigail's mother died giving birth to her, leaving her, as she grows, with a crippling guilt that drives her to bizarre childhood mourning rituals and, later, with the responsibility of caring for her chronically depressed father. Repeated sexual violations by male relatives and the self-imposed expectation that she live up to her idealized image of her mother create unbearable pain and contradiction. When, at the halfway point of the book, Abigail's father sends her, at age 15 , to live with her cousin-by-marriage, Peter, in London, it's as much to free her from him as to give her more opportunities. But once she arrives, her "cousin" proves malevolent, and her dehumanization begins. Recalling Lucas Moodyson's crushing Lilya4Ever , this portrait of a brutalized girl given no control over her life or body, features Abani's lyrical prose Abigail's father's armchair "smelled of the dreams of everyone who had sat in it" and deft moves between short chapters titled "Then" and "Now"—with the latter offering little promise.
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Amazon wishlist. Becoming Abigail by Chris Abani. Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review 's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers.
Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole.
We acknowledge and remind and warn you that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure. The complete review 's Review :. Becoming Abigail is a spare, lyrical novella focussed around a Nigerian girl, alternating short sections focussing on her past and present. Her name is Abigail, but the dominant Abigail is her mother, who died giving birth to her. Dad can barely take care of himself, much less his daughter, but eventually he wants to shove her off on Peter, who "was apparently a successful businessman in London".
Abigail should have a better idea -- an encounter a few years earlier with Peter on his wedding day, when she was twelve, pretty much said it all -- but she doesn't fight the opportunity too hard. In any case, soon enough Abigail doesn't have much of a choice, and she's in London with Peter.
Peter is, of course, a terrible, terrible person. Abigail does escape from his clutches and does exact an appropriate revenge, though she doesn't turn him in to the authorities and does find someone willing and able to help her, social worker Derek. But even this doesn't go well, as their relationship becomes too close, leading to Derek's arrest and Abigail's final plunge into the abyss.
Becoming Abigail is not a pretty tale. Abigail's fate is frustrating because of the missteps that make it. That her father is psychologically too damaged to help her, or that the psychiatrist he sends her to is "only interested in the truly mad" and just prescribes a children's aspirin one can understand, but her father sending her off with Peter not to mention his farewell-gesture are terrible errors in judgment -- as is the fact that her social worker is willing to do her on the kitchen table so his wife can catch them in the act Nevertheless -- or perhaps because there is this sense that her fate isn't inevitable, that this can still be righted she escapes Peter pretty quickly, for example -- it rarely feels like a despairing or hopeless book.
Nevertheless: everybody winds up dead or in jail or missing vital parts of their anatomy. Abani comes up with some nice stuff in presenting this harrowing tale, but the depressing and ugly occurrences are fairly overwhelming. There are lives that turn out as badly as Abigail's, but it's hard to take any sort of lesson from her particular story.
Becoming Abigail has a great closing line, but it's a frustrating end to a fairly frustrating novella. Trying to meet all your book preview and review needs. Contents: Main. Becoming Abigail - US. Becoming Abigail - UK. Becoming Abigail - Canada.
By: Chris Abani. A breathtaking novella from the award-winning author of Song for Night and GraceLand. Becoming Abigail is more compressed and interior [than GraceLand ], a poetic treatment of terror and loneliness. The small canvas suits Chris Abani. Abigail is sensitive, courageous, and teetering on the brink of madness.
Chris Abani – Becoming Abigail
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Book Review: Chris Abani's 'Becoming Abigail'
In the UK right now, there is a real taste for true-life biographies about child abuse. The covers usually feature black-and-white photos of sad-faced kids and the titles are in a hand-scrawled font. I suspect that the decline of the horror genre is connected to an appetite for these altogether more real stories. It is ostensibly about the traumas and abuses suffered by a young Nigerian girl caught up in the skin trade.
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Amazon wishlist. Becoming Abigail by Chris Abani. Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review 's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole.