Looking Up by @ey_abs is a Toasty Reads pick #mglit #yalit #fiction #diversereads #giveaway
Title: Looking Up
Author: Abena Eyeson
Genre: Contemporary, Upper-middle-grade/Teen, Diverse voice
Thirteen-year-old Esi is reluctantly on her way to London, England. After many happy years with Grandma in Ghana, she is joining Maggie, the mother she hasn’t lived with since the age of six. Her move to London, not only forces Esi to deal with challenges she’s never faced before, but it brings up lots of questions about Solomon, her absent father, and Maggie - the answers to which in the end change her life.
A compelling story about family, friendship, migration and overcoming the challenges life throws at you.
Why has Nana Nancy not turned the ceiling fan on? Doesn’t she feel the heat? There is a slight breeze from the open louvre blades in the windows facing the veranda, but still, the living room is so hot, almost as hot as it is outside.
Nana hasn’t even noticed that I’ve walked in. Sitting on her favourite sofa, the brown leather one made by Mr Osei, the furniture maker, down the road, she’s staring into space, deep in thought, as she hums to herself.
Nana loves this living room, full of furniture, family photos and ornaments. In fact, she loves this house which she inherited from her parents when they died many years ago and in which she raised Mummy and Auntie Cissy. I’ve heard Nana talk many times about how much the house means to her. I have to say that the house means a lot to me too. Since the age of four, it’s been a place where I’ve felt loved, safe and happy. Every time I walk in, I have this warm sensation and feel like I’m home.
Smiling, I say, “Good afternoon Nana Nancy,” as I walk towards her.
Her face lights up as she turns to me, looking much younger than her sixty-three years of age. “Oh, good Esi, you’re home. Come and sit down, my dear,” she says, patting the seat next to her. “I have good news.”
Wondering what the news could be, I go and sit beside her.
“Esi, Maggie called this morning,” Nana says, looking excited as she clasps both my hands in hers.
Baffled as to why this is big news as Mummy often calls, I ask, “How is Mummy?”
“She is well, Esi, and sends her love, but the reason why she called is that she has finally sorted things out so you can go and live with her in London. She is sending the money for your plane ticket and at the end of August, you will be flying out to join her!” Nana’s eyes sparkle with happiness.
I smile at her, as she is clearly expecting me to be pleased with the news. But, in truth, I don’t feel exactly happy, more … shocked. I wasn’t expecting this at all. Mummy has been working in London so long that I’ve gotten used to her living there and me living here with Nana.
“But that means that in less than three months’ time, I’ll be leaving.” The words slip out of my mouth as it dawns on me.
“Yes, Esi,” says Nana with a big smile. “In less than three months time, you will be living with your Mummy once again. Thanks be to God.”
But I’m not thanking God. Panic is making my head pound as I think about leaving Nana, Ama, Auntie Cissy, this house and everything I know behind to go to London by myself.
I don’t want that!
Yes, it would be nice to see Mummy but I don’t want to live in London. I’m happy living right here!
Nana carries on talking, oblivious to my turmoil. “How I have been praying for Maggie to send for you. Every child should live with their mother, Esi. It has worried me that you and Maggie have lived apart for years.”
Letting go of my hands, she picks up the white handkerchief on her lap and mops her forehead before waving it in the air, saying, “Thank you God for answering my prayers.”
She leans on the armrest and pushes herself up to her feet. “Da n’ase, Da n’ase, Da Onyame ase,” she starts to sing, thanking God. Swaying from side to side, she slowly makes her way around the large wooden centre table, singing and waving her handkerchief in the air, her brown sandals tapping the terrazzo floor.
“Eh Mama, you’re in fine voice this afternoon,” Auntie Cissy says beaming at Nana. Auntie Cissy looks just like a younger version of Nana – slender and petite with a kind face. She and Ama have just walked into the living room. When we arrived from school a short while ago, I headed straight to the living room, but Auntie Cissy went to speak to Irene in the kitchen while Ama disappeared upstairs to use the bathroom.
Nana stops singing to happily tell them the news, adjusting her green head tie as she does so. Auntie Cissy and Ama start to jubilate loudly before rushing over to hug me. Ama links her arm through mine and sits down beside me. Auntie Cissy shakes her curly weave from side to side and sings loudly, as she follows Nana who has started singing and dancing around the centre table again.
“You’re so lucky, Cuz,” Ama says, resting her cornrowed head on my shoulder.
“I don’t feel lucky,” I say grumpily, absolutely certain I’d much rather stay here than go to London.
“C’mon Esi. Of course, you are. I wish I could go to London.” Ama smiles and winks, her dimpled face looking at me. “Maybe you can put me in your suitcase when you go. I’m sure nobody will notice. I’m only small after all.”
I smile at her as she laughs, wishing I could take her with me. I would be much happier about moving to London if she was coming.
Ama starts to clap for Nana and Auntie Cissy as they dance and sing. Then she gets up to join them, singing at the top of her voice and shaking herself vigorously in her blue and white school dress, which is oversized like mine.
The intense afternoon heat has them sweating before too long. Damp patches appear in Nana’s green kaba and Auntie Cissy’s white work blouse. But they don’t stop.
I don’t move. I can’t move.
I’m biting my tongue to stop myself screaming at them. “I don’t want to go. I don’t want to leave you!”
But I can’t say it out loud. Look at them. They won’t understand.
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What makes your featured book a must-read?
‘Abena Eyeson has penned a gripping family drama with engaging and emotional plot lines that makes it impossible to put down this book. Remember the last time you read a book in a few sittings? Get ready when you pick up the story of Esi Asantewa in "Looking Up." What a brave girl Esi is! I would be disappointed if I did not see this family drama in a cinema near me in future.’
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Runs February 15 – February 23, 2022.
Winner will be drawn on February 24, 2022.
Educated up to PhD in the UK, Abena Eyeson lives in a leafy suburb just outside London, England with her husband and three children. Between school runs, managing a busy household and trying to maintain a working life, her love of drama and writing led her to pen the novel Looking Up. In 2021, she was a Faber Children’s FAB Prize Commended Text Winner.
Social Media Links:
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