Published April 2015 by Other Press
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review
Elijah, seven years old, is covered in scars and has a history of disruptive behavior. Taken away from his birth mother, a Nigerian immigrant in England, Elijah is moved from one foster parent to the next before finding a home with Nikki and her husband, Obi.
Nikki believes that she and Obi are strong enough to accept Elijah’s difficulties—and that being white will not affect her ability to raise a black son. They care deeply for Elijah and, in spite of his demons, he begins to settle into this loving family. But as Nikki and Obi learn more about their child’s tragic past, they face challenges that threaten to rock the fragile peace they’ve established, challenges that could prove disastrous.
"Being dead is like living inside a dream: only some things are real, but you don't know which ones, It is so dark when I wake up that I feel dead again. I have to move my fingers and toes to know I am still alive. I died once, the first night I'd been away from Mama. I was so dead then that I couldn't move anything. Not even one toe."Little Elijah as been through so much in his seven years, things that are slowly reveled through his time with Nikki and Obi and through letters written by his birth mother. As Elijah slowly begins to relax into his life with Nikki and Obi (helped by his new cousin who is also his first real friend and Obi's father who is also Nigerian), Nikki and Obi must resolve lingering issues that begin to threaten the stability Elijah so desperately needs.
Watson fills her second novel with love and even some humor as she explores family, race, mental health, cultural differences, and the child protective system. She writes knowingly about the ways in which that system has both cared for and harmed Elijah further and the difficulties in taking on a child burdened with an abusive history.
"There are three places where women are kings. One is in that moment after birth, when generations of women stir up inside woman's body and the whole world shakes and nature reminds us who is king. The second place is Nigeria, where - you remember - a woman, a prostitute even, was so respected she was made king. And in heaven women must be kings, for in heaven all the wrongs of earth are righted."For Elijah, one would certainly hope so.
It's a difficult book to read but so beautifully written and so incredibly emotional. I could not put it down but then I did not want it to end. Where Women Are Kings will stay with me for a long time.