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** Winner of the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year 2020 **
Longlisted for the 2020 Women's Prize for Fiction
Shortlisted for the 2020 Orwell Prize for Political Fiction
Shortlisted for the James Tait Black Memorial Prize 2020
A Times, Evening Standard and Financial Times Book of the Year
I was a girl once, but not any more . . .
A young woman, barely more than a girl herself, must learn to survive with a child of her own, in a world which seems entirely consumed by madness.
As she navigates a landscape of terrors and trials, can she find a place of safety within a society blinkered by mistrust and denial?
'Astonishing.' New Statesman
'Raw and transfixing.' Observer
'Miraculous . . . Extraordinary.' Mail on Sunday
'A masterpiece.' Irish Independent
'Mesmerising.' Sunday Times
'Devastating and moving.' Daily Telegraph
By the author of The Country Girls (dramatised on BBC Radio 4 in August 2019).
The harrowing story of the Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram in 2014 provides the foundation of this emotional novel from O'Brien (The Little Red Chairs). Maryam, who narrates in a taut first person, is brutally ripped from her school in Nigeria, along with her classmates, and taken to a detention camp, where they are treated like cattle. Maryam has a child with a reckless fellow prisoner named Mahoud. Later, the chaos from an air attack allows her and her daughter to escape along with her friend Buki, but this is far from the end of her troubles. Days of starvation and exhaustion end when they take refuge in a remote outpost near a village, where they lay low for awhile before being embraced and nurtured by the women who live there. But when it's learned that the villagers are "hiding a militant's wife and child," they are shunned and Maryam is forced to leave, splitting up from Buki. She goes to a military post, where she is mistaken for a suicide bomber and ends up being interviewed by authorities, which goes horribly wrong. O'Brien captures the intensity and urgency of Maryam's plight with measured, evocative prose that often reads like poetry. She succeeds in putting a personal face on an international tragedy.