By Stephen Kelman, 2011, House of Anansi Press
With his first novel, Stephen Kelman demonstrates his story-telling talent, bringing to life a young boy who is one of the most lovable characters I have come across in a long time.
Harrison Opoku lives in
Inner-city life is far removed from
Miquita’s face went all hard… “Are you with us?” … Miquita was making the iron go near then pulling it away like a crazy game … Lydia closed her eyes … “I’m with you, I’m with you.”
With this passage we see how easily an ordinary pastime can shift from playful innocence to deadly seriousness in an instant.
Does Hari learn the language and codes necessary to get along in this new and threatening place? Does his “pidgin English” eventually transform into a language of survival? For the moment Hari combines the vernacular of his peers, filled with British slang, with Ghanaian terms and some of his own making. This gives Hari a unique, fresh voice, and we feel that we are truly hearing this child tell his story in his own words.
He is a beautiful spirit who feels the need to do good things, whether something tiny, like making his sister smile to “save the day” or something much larger, like tracking down the murderer of a young boy. We see his great love for his family, particularly his younger sister, Agnes, and the sacrifices he is willing to make for them; we see his curiosity about the world; we see his bravery in trying to identify the killer and in his refusal to submit to the local gang; and his attachment to his “own” special pigeon is endearing. In short, we learn to love him. But be careful, for he may break your heart.