Ancestor Stones

Aminatta Forna, Author . Atlantic Monthly $24 (317p) ISBN 978-0-87113-944-3

Acclaimed memoirist Forna (The Devil That Danced on the Water ) glides into fiction with this sweeping portrayal of the lives of five Sierra Leonean women. Abie—a young woman born and raised in Sierra Leone, who now lives in London with her Portuguese-Scottish husband and their children—receives a letter from her aunts informing her they're bequeathing her the family coffee plantation. When Abie returns, her aunts offer her another gift: their stories. A native of Sierra Leone, Forna unpacks Abie's family history (and that of Sierra Leone) using the alternating points of view of Abie's four aunts—Asana, Mary, Hawa and Serah. Asana outlives two husbands and eventually opens her own store, "relinquishing the birthright of womanhood in exchange for the liberty of a man." Mary addresses the changes brought to Africa by the Europeans (prominent among them, the mirror she uses to examine her disfigured face). Hawa trades her gold earrings for bus fare in order to see the sea just once in her life. And Serah opens a voting station during corrupt national elections. Though it's a stretch to call this a novel (each chapter is a self-contained story), Forna's work sheds light on the history of a long-struggling nation. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 07/17/2006
Release date: 08/01/2006
Paperback - 317 pages - 978-0-8021-4321-1
Hardcover - 317 pages - 978-0-7475-8472-8
MP3 CD - 978-1-5226-6133-7
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