The Last Gift

READ THE WORLD – Tanzania: The Last Gift by Abdulrazak Gurnah

Abbas has never told anyone about his childhood and his life before he was a sailor, before he met his wife Maryam outside a Boots in Exeter and they made a quiet life for themselves in Norwich with their children, Jamal and Hanna. At the age of sixty-three, Abbas collapses and is left bedbound and unable to do speak about the secrets of his past. Abbas’s illness forces his children home, Hanna who calls herself Anna now and is moving to a new city with her boyfriend, and Jamal, a quiet university student who is captivated by a young woman in his shared student house. There they have to deal with their father’s silences and their fretful mother as their parents’ pasts are revealed.

I listened to the audiobook narrated by Lyndam Gregory and it took me a while into the story because of his narration, I just didn’t really take to it straight away.

The Last Gift is told from the perspectives of each family member with each chapter having a section of the story from each character. The exposition at the beginning of the novel is blended almost seamlessly with the action. Abbas collapses at the very beginning of the story and as he does so, it’s like his life flashes before his eyes, allowing the reader to get a sense of who he is. It’s not until he is recuperating that he begins to think about his childhood and adolescence, and the reasons why he left Zanzibar, for the first time in decades after keeping the guilt and memories buried for so long. His revelations shock his wife and children and they each deal with it differently.

The Last Gift is a story about immigrants, their children, and the struggle to find an identity. Maryam doesn’t know who her parents were and grew up with different foster families. She has dark skin and as a child was bullied and didn’t feel like she fit in. She’s not confident in herself and has relied on Abbas to deal with money and bills, so when he falls ill she has a whole new world of responsibilities to navigate.

As Abbas had previously only told his family he was from East Africa when they asked, and Maryam has no idea of her heritage, Hanna and Jamal have never really known what their family heritage is. When they are faced with some unexpected knowledge of it, Hanna doesn’t want to be a part of a “vile immigrant tragedy” while Jamal is keen to find out more.

The Last Gift is about stories and memories, and how not everyone wants to hear them and face up to the truth of them. Most of the characters are nuanced, Hanna especially is equal parts unlikable and sympathetic, and while some of them get some closure, others are left as uncertain of their place in the world as when the book began. 4/5.

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My #ReadtheWorldathon TBR

It’s 1st July on Sunday and that’s when the #ReadtheWorldathon starts. The Read the Worldathon in a month-long readathon that I’m co-hosting with A Novel Haul and Ninja Book Box. The aim of this readathon is to read books from a variety of different countries and there’s a bingo card you can “travel across” to make things more fun. For more info and an explanation of all the squares, see my announcement post here.

Now onto my TBR. I’ve planned my route across the bingo card, as you can see I have two possible routes, one taking 7 squares and one taking 5 so if I’m running out of time in the month I’ve got some options. I’ve also said what other squares a book can be used for in case anyone might have it and be unsure of where best to use it for themselves.

Celebrate WOC
Smaller and Smaller Circles by F.H. Batacan – Philippines
I have the ebook of this. I stumbled across it when browsing books on my kindle and it’s a highly praised detective story. I’m really looking forward to this one.
Other squares it can be used for: Genre, Asia, Firsts

Caribbean
Augustown by Kei Miller – Jamaica
Set in 1982 on the precipice of something major happening, a boy is distracted by Ma Taffy asking him, “Kaia, I ever tell you bout the flying preacherman?” I bought this book second-hand in London at the beginning of the year I know next to nothing about it.
Other squares it can be used for: Historical

Middle East
I have two choices for this square.
De Niro’s Game by Rawi Hage – Lebanon
This is an audiobook I have borrowed from my library. It’s about two long-time friends who grew up together in war-torn Beirut.
Other squares it can be used for: Firsts

The Nimrod Flip-Out by Etgar Keret – Israel
A collection of short stories that was a recent purchase and the only thing I know about these short stories, is apparently they can be a bit weird and satirical.
Other squares it can be used for: Short Stories

Non-Fic
Summer is my Favourite Season: A Memoir of Childhood and War in Kosovo by Ilir Berisha – Kosovo
A memoir from footballer Ilir Berisha. I’ll admit he’s not a footballer I know of, but I think it’ll be an interesting insight of what it’s like growing up in Kosovo – a country that’s not recognised as its own independent state by some countries.
Other squares it can be used for: Firsts, Europe, Political Controversy

Americas
Never Stop Walking: A Memoir of Finding Home Across the World by Christina Rickardsson – Brazil
Another book I’ve got on my kindle. This sounds like a potential sad autobiography as Christina Rickardsson was born in Brazil but at the age of seven she was taken to an orphanage and then to a village in the north of Sweden.
Other squares it can be used for: Celebrate WOC, Firsts, Non-Fic, In Translation

In Translation
Another square where I’ve got some choice.
Letters from Burma by Aung San Suu Kyi – Myanmar
Aung San Suu Kyi is a politician in Myanmar and this collection of letter from her are about how she sees her country and its people – both the good and the bad.
Other squares it can be used for: Political Controversy, Non-Fic, Celebrate WOC

Thirty Days by Annelies Verbeke – Belgium
Thirty Days is about a musician who moves to the countryside to be with his girlfriend, and how they and a local doctor start to Afghans and Syrians at a refugee camp – something the locals do not like.
Other squares it can be used for: Europe

Africa
And my final square offers me some choice too – I’m all about the choice when it comes to TBR’s for readathons!
The Last Gift by Abdulrazak Gurnah – Tanzania
Another audiobook from my local library. This is about a man who’s kept his past a secret but when he gets ill, he starts to share how he came from Africa and made a life for himself in the UK.
Other squares it can be used for: ?

Secret Son by Laila Lalami – Morocco
I think this book is about the relationship between a son and his mother and how it becomes strained when his absent father renters his life.
Other squares it can be used for: Celebrate WOC

That’s my TBR for the next month! I hope to manage to make my way across the bingo card and if I do manage to read all these books, I do have some other books I could read for random squares on the card.

Do let me know if you’re planning to take part in the #ReadtheWorldathon – I would love to see your TBR’s! I’d also like to know some of your favourite international books or authors too. There’s so many books out there from so many countries, there’s just not enough time to get them all.