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Atlas of Unknowns By Tania James (Simon & Schuster)

Last update - Thursday, March 1, 2012, 15:00 By Metro Éireann

Book Review by Ifendinma Dimbo  

Linno and Anju are two sisters born with different talents: one artistic, the other academic. When their mother dies mysteriously, it is their father and maternal grandmother who bring them up in the everyday drudgery of poverty.
Anju, true to form, gets a scholarship to an exclusive New York school, but to provide the edge that will clinch the scholarship, she dips into her sisters’ talent and so leads the reader through that sometimes masked, sometimes open love/hate relationship inherent in sibling rivalry, the pain of betrayal, and the ultimate sacrifice embodied in the act of forgiveness.
In exploring this storyline, Tania James brings to the fore the essence of the adage of blood being thicker than water. It also struck me that, more often than not, it seems many immigrants plan to make the most out of opportunities offered in their adopted countries, and never seem to acknowledge that obstacles would ever be encountered.
James is a good storyteller who brings even the uninteresting details to glow. The narrative is rich both in the texture of prose and in the strength it gives the characters.
The storytelling, in no way ephemeral, is masterful and entertaining, and handled in such a way that words employed in different manners acquire deeper meanings, and characters suddenly come to real life and bring a smile to your face. You cry when they do because you are them.
Books about the travails of immigrants in their new countries abound – some good, others not so good. For me, James’ effort falls well into the former category.

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