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Extended Audio Sample Tiny Sunbirds, Far Away: A Novel Audiobook, by Christie Watson Click for printable size audiobook cover
4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 4.00 (1,205 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Christie Watson Narrator: Claudia Alick Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: July 2011 ISBN: 9781470804381
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When their mother catches their father with another woman, twelve-year-old Blessing and her fourteen-year-old brother, Ezikiel, are forced to leave their comfortable home in Lagos for the village of Warri in the Niger Delta to live with their mother’s family. Without running water or electricity, Warri is at first a nightmare for Blessing. Her mother is gone all day and works suspiciously late into the night to pay the children’s school fees. Her brother, once a promising student, seems to be falling increasingly under the influence of a group of violent local teenage boys calling themselves freedom fighters. Her grandfather, a kind if misguided man, is trying on Islam as his new religion of choice and is even considering the possibility of bringing in a second wife.

But Blessing’s grandmother, wise and practical, soon becomes a beloved mentor, teaching Blessing the ways of the midwife in rural Nigeria. Blessing is exposed to the horrors of genital mutilation and the devastation wrought on the environment by British and American oil companies. As Warri comes to feel like home, Blessing becomes increasingly aware of the threats to its safety, both from its unshakable but dangerous traditions and from the relentless carelessness of the modern world. Tiny Sunbirds, Far Away is the witty and beautifully written story of one family’s attempt to survive a new life they could never have imagined, struggling to find a deeper sense of identity along the way.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “An excellent novel. It takes the reader deep into the reality of ordinary life in Nigeria and is also funny, moving, and politically alert.”

    Giles Foden, award-winning author of The Last King of Scotland

  • “Blessing’s is a distinctive voice, at once credulous and curious…The same might be said of Watson herself; her descriptions of character and place are beautifully observed. A promising new talent.”

    Independent (London)

  • “It’s a profound shock to find themselves in terrible poverty, without clean water or electricity and subject to raids by the terrifying ‘Area boys’…Yet this is not a bleak book: there is humor and love, especially in the growing relationship between Blessing and her grandmother, a traditional midwife. Absorbing and passionate.”

    Guardian (London)

  • “Christie Watson’s debut novel, set in the troubled Niger Delta, does what fiction does best: it captures place and characters so well that you feel you are also there. It is sincere, it is powerfully written, and it deserves to be read.”

    Helon Habila, award-winning author of Oil on Water

  • “Watson has written an immensely absorbing novel. It is both heart wrenching and consoling.”

    Chika Unigwe, author of On Black Sisters Street

  • “A sure-footed debut narrated by twelve-year-old Blessing, a girl growing up too fast in the troubled Niger Delta.”

    People

  • “A fascinating, poignant story that had me laughing in places and deeply moved in others.”

    Ike Anya, Nigerian public-health physician and writer

  • “The gripping, triumphant tale of a girl who chooses life over loss, in a sweet but savage world where oil is bled from the earth.”

    Lola Shoneyin, author of The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives

  • “Lyrical and beautifully drawn, a poignant coming-of-age tale, set in an Africa few readers will have experienced. A must-read.”

    Lesley Lokko, author of SundownersSaffron Skies, and Bitter Chocolate

  • “So good I had to lie down after reading it.”

    Trezza Azzopardi, author of The Song House

  • “[An] assured, absorbing first novel…Watson’s cleanly told coming-of-age story generates real narrative momentum.”

    Cleveland Plain Dealer

  • “[An] impressive debut…Watson’s nuanced portrayal of daily life in Nigeria is peopled with flawed but tenacious characters who fight not only for survival but for dignity. Blessing is a wonderful narrator whose vivid impressions enliven Watson’s sensual prose.”

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  • “Alick lives up to Watson’s lyrical prose and delivers a gripping presentation of life amid war as well as a celebration of the will to survive.”

    AudioFile

  • “Confronting issues of race, class, and religion, this work ponders idealistic ignorance in a way that is reminiscent of Chinua Achebe’s No Longer at Ease. Watson’s story will appeal to readers of African and literary fiction.”

    Library Journal

  • “Through the lens of young girl’s coming-of-age, this breakthrough novel views the politics of contemporary Nigeria, portraying the clash between traditional and modern as it affects one extended family.”

    Booklist

  • “A first novel that knows how to tell a story, concocting a voice that lures us. Perfect pitch is not reserved for musicians; some novelists have it, too. From the very first page of her very first book, Christie Watson proves she possesses it, creating a voice that tells a tale we can’t put down.”

    Barnes and Noble, editorial review

  • “[An] absorbing first novel, told through the eyes of the bright and observant Blessing…A memorable debut novel about a Nigerian girl’s coming of age.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • Selected for the June 2011 Indie Next List
  • Winner of the Costa Book Award Costa Book Award for First Novel

Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jane | 2/13/2014

    " Wonderful book - tough subject to read but very interesting. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Judith | 2/12/2014

    " A good read (!) - really interesting to learn about life in Nigeria, and just how bad it can be. It's not a depressing read though, just informative and worth reading! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Bethany Carlson | 1/22/2014

    " What an astounding story of learning strength through many challenges. It is very simply told but the events do not need flowery descriptions to be vivid and compelling. This is a coming of age story in circumstances that often seem impossible. But there is a window of light that opens in every dark time to create a tale that is ultimately about overcoming. I feel like I have visited an Ijaw village outside of Lagos in Nigeria, and Tiny Sunbirds Far Away is definitely a trip I would recommend. Just pack some Kleenex for the last 50 pages. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Judy Brunner | 1/20/2014

    " I really liked this book. It was completely like any other book I've read so far. Fascinating detail of life in poor Africa, and I was really surprised that it had been written by a white girl. I wonder how she got all the wonderful details of everyday life. I also liked the dialogue of the different characters. Nice to have something completely original and unusual to read for a change. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Marie | 12/2/2013

    " Tragic, yet also a beautiful story. Twelve year old Blessing lives a comfortable life in high-rise apartment in Lagos Nigeria w/ her parents and older brother Ezikiel. That life is suddenly cut short when their mother finds their father with another woman. Due to lack of funds, they move to their mother's hometown village of Warri Nigeria, in the heart of the Niger Delta - Oil Region. They are appalled by the severe poverty and poor living conditions they are now subjected to, not to mention the constant danger by all the rioting and militia groups against the oil companies. When there is no money for Blessing to attend school anymore, she joins her grandmother as a midwife, and finds her true calling. Throughout the story there are numerous anecdotes that teach the reader about the horrific living conditions the people of Niger Delta; scarce jobs, constant threat of danger by their own police, as well as numerous militia groups & gangs, schools, clean food & water; all because the oil companies need to keep making that money. 'Kill and Go' police are paid to threaten/burn down/kill surrounding villages that don't adhere to the oil companies demands. Gangs of boys (known as the Sibeye Boys in the story) turn to violence against their own people because they have no future and see no end to theses atrocities. Throughout all the chaos, Blessing finds herself accepting Warri as her home and loves her new found family and can't imagine leaving. When her mother finds love with a white man, she is glad for her mother's happiness. Ezikiel however is not, and soon unleashes the unthinkable upon his own family. I couldn't put this book down from the beginning, very easy read. Great first novel by this author, I'll be looking to see what else she offers down the road. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lisa | 10/7/2013

    " Great story, told through the eyes of a young African girl, as she moves through innocence and poverty to womanhood...I would definately recommend! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Julie | 9/21/2013

    " I was not sure how I would like this book in the beginning. In the end I loved it. This is an interesting story of a family that faces many serious issues prevelant in today's world. This book made me emotional and made me think. I highly recommend it. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Colleen | 9/13/2013

    " It started off a little slow for me, but then definitely picked up. It's probably 3.5 stars for me, and maybe it was slow in the begining due to my own state of mind at the time. Really enjoyed it though...it can really make you hate non-existent fathers. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Nikki | 6/24/2013

    " Ho-hum... Thought the characters seemed more like "caricatures"...Over-written, not very credible. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Megan | 6/23/2013

    " This is a great book. Read it. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Cattitude | 6/21/2013

    " Started good, but some characters & happenings were just waaaay too "African" in the way the westerners would like to see. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ticklish Owl | 6/12/2013

    " If you liked this book, you might also enjoy Little Bee. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sue Powell | 3/13/2013

    " I just loved this book. The characters are so well drawn, and engage you in their lives from the first page. I suspect the book is a bit naive, and rural Nigerian life slighty romanticised, but it didn't spoil my enjoyment. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Hulananni | 2/25/2013

    " What a brilliant begining....first time novelist. Pathos, laughter, sorrow, family. Long book but I found myself unwilling to put it down. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Paula | 1/5/2013

    " I got an early release and I was skeptical about a white woman writing in the voice of a young African woman, but I think it works. The story is interesting and just different enough to keep me reading. I have all kinds of questions about the oil industry at the time - but this was not that story. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Santa | 4/25/2012

    " This would make an amazing movie. It has everything for a good movie. I highly recommend this book. It's very engaging. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Raina | 2/13/2012

    " Engaging read. I was almost halfway through the book before I noticed it was written by a non-African person. The author is actually from the UK. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Doreen | 1/11/2012

    " Good book! Excellent book club read. Looking forward to the discussion. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Paula Abdullah | 1/4/2012

    " Very good read, the family dynamics were awesome, showing we're all connected,generational and worldly. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ellen | 11/21/2011

    " a wonderful story of a girl learning to adjust to life in a poor village amid tribal violence after early years in the city and how she adjusts to a new religion and learns to be a midwife from her grandmother despite her family's opposition "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Steph | 11/1/2011

    " Great book,enjoyed the changes each character went through and their growth. Was engaged in learning about the culture. The relationships of the characters was also engrossing. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Marlena | 10/31/2011

    " This book was so engaging. The conflict was never ending and and although the book was full of heartbreak, the ending was beautiful. This book is set in Nigeria so its got tons of culture in it, from the dialect of the characters to the foods they eat. Read this book! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Marcy | 10/1/2011

    " Great book that emphasizes the power of grandmother/ granddaughter relationships. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sandra | 9/24/2011

    " Loved this book, set in Africa. Sad in places but with a positive ending. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Danielle | 9/19/2011

    " I'm surprised by how quickly I'm reading it and liking it, though I think it is a bit lengthy. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Melanie | 9/2/2011

    " Reading this book was like living in Africa for the duration of my reading. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Lonni | 8/7/2011

    " Very good read. Some very compelling characters (least well-drawn is mother's boyfriend). Interesting story. Interesting setting. The book can get a little heavy handed at times and some things are a little too pat, but I'm really glad I read it. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Rachael | 7/27/2011

    " Beautifully and powerfully written. I can imagine myself in every scene. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Tallerita | 7/25/2011

    " Another coming of age story, but deeply profound... Reminds me of all the hurting in the world that needs fixing. "

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About the Author
Author Christie Watson

Christie Watson trained as a pediatric nurse at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London and worked as a senior staff nurse and educator for over ten years before joining the University of East Anglia for her MA in creative writing. There she won the Malcolm Bradbury Bursary for her work. She lives in South London with her Nigerian Muslim partner and their large dual-heritage family.

About the Narrator

Claudia Alick is a playwright, stage actress, writer, producer, and teacher. She is the Artistic Director of Smokin Word Production, a theater, recording, and small press company dedicated to building the new genre of spoken word and hip-hop theater. American Theatre magazine identified her as one of the twenty-five theater artists who will shape American theater in the next twenty-five years.