Shortlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize • Longlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize • Nominated for the Edinburgh First Book Award • One of The Observer's "New Faces of Fiction" • One of The Millions' "Most Anticipated Books of the Year" • One of The Guardian's "Best Summer Books" (Selected by Kayo Chingonyi and Joe Dunthorne) • One of Library Journal's "Most Anticipated Fall Debuts" • One of The Observer's Best Books of the Year • An NPR "Staff Pick" and One of the NPR Book Concierge's "Best Books of the Year"
A Go On Girl! Book Club Selection
"Immensely readable...A refreshing story about coming of age in spite of conflicting ideas of what 'growing up' means."—Buzzfeed (The Best Books of Fall)
A moving and unexpectedly funny exploration of friendship and family, shame and forgiveness, Michael Donkor's debut novel follows three adolescent girls grappling with a shared experience: the joys and sorrows of growing up.
Belinda knows how to follow the rules. As a housegirl, she has learned the right way to polish water glasses, to wash and fold a hundred handkerchiefs, and to keep a tight lid on memories of the village she left behind when she came to Kumasi.
Mary is still learning the rules. Eleven-years-old and irrepressible, the young housegirl-in-training is the little sister Belinda never had.
Amma has had enough of the rules. A straight-A student at her exclusive London school, she has always been the pride of her Ghanaian parents—until now. Watching their once-confident teenager grow sullen and wayward, they decide that sensible Belinda is the shining example Amma needs.
So Belinda must leave Mary behind as she is summoned from Ghana to London, where she tries to impose order on her unsettling new world. As summer turns to autumn, Belinda and Amma are surprised to discover common ground. But when the cracks in their defenses open up, the secrets they have both been holding tightly threaten to seep out.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
This highly anticipated debut novel still managed to exceed our expectations. Former English lit teacher Michael Donkor's gorgeous, emotionally devastating story centres on the lives of three girls entering womanhood. There’s Belinda, a studious housegirl who’s dispatched by her wealthy employers from Ghana to London; Amma, a disaffected teenager intent on distancing herself from her Ghanian parents; and Mary, Belinda’s former roommate and young apprentice. As the characters' paths and fates intersect, we bear witness to a majestic coming-of-age tale. The book’s brilliance lies in its versatility: Housegirl is as funny as it is emotional.
In his haunting debut, set in 2002 in Ghana and England, Donkor tells the story of three girls as they become young women, dealing not only with typical adolescent issues such as unrequited first love but also with being at the mercy of circumstances beyond their control. In London, 17-year-old Amma, once an excellent student and high achiever, struggles to define and embrace her sexuality, becoming rebellious and secretive. Her mother, convinced that she only needs a good, supportive influence, enlists the help of friends from Ghana. They send Belinda, their 17-year-old housegirl, to live with Amma's family in London, in hopes of serving as a role model and correcting her abrupt change in behavior. But Mary, nearly 12, must adjust to losing a friend and mentor when Belinda moves, leaving her behind. The girls' true selves emerge; they become comfortable in their own skins and capable of honest friendship that transcends childhood. The captivating characters quickly draw the reader in, and the ending is pleasingly open ended, allowing the reader to continue imagining the lives of the girls after the novel is finished. Full of secrets and heartache, this is an excellent coming-of-age novel.
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