Hello, friends! It’s my stop on the TBR & Beyond Tours for The Kaya Girl by Mamle Wolo and I’m excited to share my review and favourite quotes with you today!
Thanks to Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for providing an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!
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Goodreads: The Kaya Girl
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: 28 June 2022
Genre: Middle-Grade Literary
Writing with effortlessly engaging prose, Wolo showcases the interweaving layers of Ghanaian culture to create a prismatic, multifaceted world in which two young girls, against all odds, are able to find each other.
When Faiza, a Muslim migrant girl from northern Ghana, and Abena, a wealthy doctor’s daughter from the south, meet by chance in Accra’s largest market, where Faiza works as a porter or kaya girl, they strike up an unlikely and powerful friendship that transcends their social inequities and opens up new worlds to them both.
Set against a backdrop of class disparity in Ghana, The Kaya Girl has shades of The Kite Runner in its unlikely friendship, and of Slumdog Millionaire as Faiza’s life takes unlikely turns that propel her thrillingly forward. As, over the course of the novel, Abena awakens to the world outside her sheltered, privileged life, the novel explores a multitude of awakenings and the opportunities that lie beyond the breaking down of barriers. This is a gorgeously transporting work, offering vivid insight into two strikingly diverse young lives in Ghana.
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Note: The quotes below are taken from an advanced/unfinished copy and are subject to change in the final version.
TL;DR: This was really different to what I’ve been reading lately but it was a refreshing read that I think many readers, especially young ones, will enjoy. I personally saw a lot of my international upbringing reflected in Abena’s experience and that is actually what made me choose my current career path. The writing made this such an easy and engaging read, making it perfect as a good palate cleanser between books!
Abena is a young Ghanaian girl who comes from a very privileged and wealthy family. She goes to the American school, has international friends, belongs to the ‘rich circle’, and spends the majority of her time hanging out in malls, buying imported products and not really knowing much about her country. One summer she gets sent to live out the weekdays with her aunt Lydia while her mother has gone to London to give birth and her father works at his clinic. Abena’s meant to help her aunt at her store at the local market and what starts as an exercise in ‘torture and boredom’ turns into a life-changing experience when she meets Faiza, a kayayoo or porter girl.
“A wise person once told me that looking and seeing where not the same thing.”
I really loved watching the friendship form between Abena and Faiza. It’s written with such honest emotion and heart and it was clear how important their relationship was to each other. It was wonderful seeing Abena go through her eye-opening journey as she really immerses herself in the local market and learns about the rich mix of cultures within Ghana. She goes through such a humbling experience and it was lovely to see how open she was to learn about how different people’s experiences can be coming from different backgrounds. There were some really sweet moments with the other ladies in the market place and it was so easy to visualise because it reminded me of those feel-good moments in heartwarming movies when something great happens at the pinnacle of a story!
“I had never appreciated the wonder of knowledge the way I did that day, when I rediscovered the world through the eyes of someone who had never known how much of it was out there.”
Mamle Wolo’s writing was beautiful in its simplicity and she really made Ghana come alive with her vibrant descriptions of the bustling market, rich foods, mixed languages and varied customs. I really appreciated learning about the socio-cultural aspects of the country alongside Abena and I know that what we’re shown in this story probably only touches the tip of the iceberg.
“Abena, when life is hard, you also have to be hard.”
I will say that the first half of the book ends rather abruptly and it felt quite bittersweet but since there was a part two, I had a feeling I knew what was coming and I wasn’t wrong. The second part takes place 15 years in the future and while it was obviously meant to be a happy moment, I did feel like it was too simplistic and almost unrealistic? Could the journey that Faiza experiences actually happen in real life? Yes, probably. But I felt like the way it was written in this story was almost too perfect, if that makes sense? Ultimately though, I did enjoy this story. It had a great heartwarming friendship and I also loved learning just how rich and diverse the Ghanian culture is.
MAMLE WOLO is an award-winning Ghanaian-German author who studied at the University of Cambridge and the University of Lancaster in the UK, and is an Honorary Fellow in Writing of the University of Iowa. She writes fiction, poetry, and screenplays and lives with her family in Accra, Ghana.
Do you have The Kaya Girl on your TBR?