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Song for Night: A Novella Paperback – September 1, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In his latest novella, Abani renders the inner voice of mute 15-year-old My Luck, the boy leader of a platoon of mine sweepers in an unnamed war-torn African country. When he was 12, the then volunteer rebel had his vocal cords severed (the rest of his team received the same treatment), so that we wouldn't scare each other with our death screams. At the opening of the novella, My Luck awakens after an explosion to find that he has been separated from his unit. During his journey to find his platoon, he reflects on the events of his violent life. Abani is unafraid to evoke My Luck's dark side, and though My Luck's experience with killing is a singular joy that is perhaps rivaled only by an orgasm, his stock-taking also touches on guilt at witnessing his mother's murder, ambivalence about his imam father and tenderness for Ijeoma, a girl in his platoon killed by a mine. Initially, the present-tense narration is at odds with My Luck's inclination toward memory and reflection, but the story becomes more immersive and dreamlike (and, strangely, lucid) over the course of My Luck's quest. Abani finds in his narrator a seed of hope amid the bleak, nihilistic terrain. (Sept.)
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From Booklist

Trained as a human mine detector, an Igbo boy soldier in West Africa witnesses and takes part in unspeakable brutality. His clipped, dispassionate narrative tells of mutilation, rape, massacre. But tells is the wrong word. He has not spoken for three years since, at 12, his vocal cords were deliberately cut so that he would not scream and give away his platoon's presence if he was blown up. After an explosion, he travels back in search of his comrades through abandoned villages and rotting corpses—and through his own memories. As he did in Becoming Abigail (2006), Abani, who was himself jailed and tortured in Nigeria, never backs away from a gruesome detail, but the gore is never sensationalized. The horror of what happens to this Igbo boy is intensified by his confusion and his tenderness. He remembers his mother taught him to crochet; she died hiding him. Ijeoma, the girl he loved, comforted him after he was forced to rape a captive. Then Ijeoma stepped on a mine. His words, "I miss her," say it all. Rochman, Hazel

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 164 pages
  • Publisher: Akashic Books (September 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1933354313
  • ISBN-13: 978-1933354316
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.6 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #112,094 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Grady Harp HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 9, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In SONG FOR NIGHT author Chris Abani has achieved what few authors have even dared - relating the grisly aspects of war as seen through the eyes of a warrior child. The mixture of innocence and participation in some of the most gruesome details of war make this novel difficult to read, yet at the same time Abani's narrator, My Luck, is a young lad with whom we not only completely identify in his sharing of his experiences, but also grow to love profoundly. This small book is not only exquisitely crafted - it is a genuine and heartrending little masterpiece.

A West African war-torn nation (probably Abani's own Nigeria where he himself was the victim of the brutality of war) uses children as soldiers. My Luck is part of a small mine diffusing unit, a group of children who were placed in boot camp at age twelve and now at age fifteen are the delicate triggers that determine the presence of field mines, diffusing them, and gathering the then safe mines for weapons for their 'Major'. The children are 'treated' with a surgery that destroys their vocal cords, a brutal means of assuring that when one of the children steps on a live mine his voice will not cry out, signaling the presence of the war unit to the rebels. These mute young soldiers bond, lose each other, and do as they are instructed, creating a life of danger, terror and probable early death, all before they have had the luxury of growing into adults.

My Luck's narration begins as he is thrown in the air by a detonated mine, his fellow 'soldiers' and company believing him dead have left him unconscious in the dirt.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Michael A. Dobos on December 28, 2007
Format: Paperback
I am a graduate student at Goddard College and the author of Song For Night, Chris Abani, will be reading from one of his works at my next residency. That's why I picked up this book, and I was satified that my College choose Abani as a guest reader. I never spoil stories, so I'm going to talk about Abani's style as opposed to his content. He writes very beautifully in this book, with words and phrases that are poetic in their description, even when the event described is horrific. And make no mistakes, this is not a pleasant tale. The narrator of the story has lived through pretty much the worst that life has to offer. But this is not to say the story takes itself too seriously, or is over-dramatic. Abani's narrator simply states the facts from his perspective, and you never once suspect Abani of feeling like one section or another will "blow the reader's mind." This is admirable because I think to have that thought at all would remind a reader that they are reading, as opposed to being caught up in a story and experiencing it for themselves.
Abani use of language, his style of having a consistent voice whether the event transpiring is bombastic of contemplative, keeps this story strong and trustworthy. This book is worth reading by any adult, and will hopefully expand the global perspective of its reader. It did mine.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By M. P. McKinney on January 8, 2008
Format: Paperback
Chris Abani turns the horrors and atrocities of war into a lyrical treasure in his novella, Song for Night. My Luck is a 15-year-old Igbo mine diffuser who is "simply fighting to survive the war." My Luck's struggle to survive forces him to commit unforgivable acts of war. He witnesses horrors that no adult, let alone a teenage boy, should see. He awakes one morning to find himself separated from his platoon. As he searches for his lost comrades, he is haunted by memories of his family, fellow soldiers and the innocent people that lost their lives to the war.

Abani's writing is poetic even though the verses are of war, death and suffering. Abani finds the light of childhood, love and innocence among the darkness of hate. Song for Night gives readers an up close and personal look at war from the eyes of a child soldier. Readers also get a glimpse of West African culture and beliefs as My Luck recalls his grandfather's stories. Song for Night is an excellent choice for those looking for a poignant tale of life, love and war that expands their reading horizons beyond mainstream literature.

Reviewed by M. P. McKinney
APOOO BookClub
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Robin Winter on October 16, 2012
Format: Paperback
Our mute protagonist is a boy soldier, vocal cords severed so he can serve as a mine sweeper in Biafra/Nigeria's desperate war. So we only hear his 'voice' inside our own silence-- we perceive the struggle within. Layered behind his recital of experience and trauma surges his yearning to reach someone, even if no one can fully understand what he has done and been. Both brutalized and brutalizing, he sustains an agonizing tenderness for his lost mother and lost friends that haunts his inner cry. This is a prose poem set deep in the character of a child with a stolen life; a brilliant literary human piece.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Joseph on January 5, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
One of the most relentlessly depressing books that i have ever read, got it at a cheap price and just in time for my class assignment. While i got this book solely for the purpose of completing homework, i would actually go out of my way to read this book because of its compelling narrative and interesting insight on the lives of those living in great horror and despair.
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