Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani
A book based on the heartbreaking story of the 219 girls taken by the militant group Boko Haram in northern Nigeria.
Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani is the story of a Nigerian girl who is kidnapped alongside her friend by Boko Haram, an Islamist extremist group. Nwaubani and fellow journalist Viviana Mazza attempt to bring attention and understanding to the horrific of the Boko Haram kidnapping and the plight in Nigeria with this story.
A young girl, who remains nameless throughout the story, is diligently going to school and aiding her mother in the care of her family. She dreams of the future where she will, hopefully, attend university. She is grateful for her family’s desire to keep her in school. Her days are peaceful as she spends time with her close friend Sarah and goes to school and looks after her younger brothers. Her village continues hearing reports of the violence and fear spread by Boko Haram, hoping that their village will be spared.
But a day arrives when Boko Haram comes to the village, killing many and rounding up the women, girls, and young boys. When the girl and her friend are put into a van and carted of to the forest, she fears the worst. They are forced to convert to Islam or be killed. With her future uncertain, the girl doesn’t know what her future will bring, but hopes one day to escape…
This story was harrowing. Nwaubani reveals the girls life through short vignettes, keeping everything from her perspective. She remains nameless, but this helps the reader understand that she could be any of the hundreds of girls kidnapped by Boko Haram. Her life before the kidnapping is sweet, and regular. She has big dreams of continuing her education and the love and support of her parents. When she is kidnapped, we see through her eyes the terrors and abuse inflicted on those captured with unflinching detail.
The girl sees one of the women from her village, who she knows well, killed for not converted to Islam. She learns deep hunger, as she is kept alive on only watery corn mush. She watches her pregnant friend give birth and die in the forest. She is forced to marry one of the soldiers and watches her friend slowly brainwashed into supporting Boko Haram. These are just a few of the horrors she has to endure. The story is bleak, brutally honest, but so compelling. Once I picked this book up, I just had to keep reading, despite having to read about such horrible things happening to these truly innocent people. I can honestly say that it was a gripping story and I applaud Nwaubani for deciding to tell it and for doing so in a way that makes the story hard-hitting and compelling.
Literary Value: 5/5
Because the story is told through short musings by the narrator, we get little pieces of her life, of her village, and of the people she knows and loves. I loved seeing her life through such a lens and I was fully invested right away. I think Nwaubani has a gift for storytelling – her narrative voice reads so true and clear I could believe that the girl is real and out there living.
I also appreciated how she showed the progression of the girls life with Boko Haram through these small vignettes. We see how things operate in the organization, we see how those who have been with Boko Haram for a while live and ultimately end up supporting Boko Haram – either out of survival or because of brainwashing. She and the girls are forced to learn the Quran, to cook and clean the blood from the soldiers clothes. But we also see how her friend slowly succumbs to this way of life, probably out of self-preservation, but also because they are both young and still impressionable.
I think that the writing is very impactful and it doesn’t flinch away from the hard truths of the girls’ situation. A real sense of hopelessness is conveyed, yet the book doesn’t leave the reader feeling hopeless, which, I think, is a real credit to the author.
Entertainment Factor: 4/5
The only reason why I didn’t put this as 5/5 as well is because the story is so sad – and since I don’t like reading sad stories, I automatically docked 1 point, but I’m sure many others who read this book will not mind that fact.
Otherwise, this book was a page-turner for me. The story itself is harrowing, but the way Nwaubani wrote it makes the story come alive on the page. I couldn’t look away, though I wanted to (often). I don’t want to say that the book is “entertaining,” but more like, it is gripping and so powerful. It’s the kind of story that demands attention and it deserves this attention. These girls deserve our attention and interest.
I would definitely recommend this book based on it’s readability. It is a powerful story.
Cover Art Rating: 5/5
The cover for this book is so beautiful. The green is vibrant, the silhouette of the tree is really coll – twisting and wide. This image not only reflects the title, but also a moment of discovery that occurs in the book. After reading it, the cover becomes even more significant, and takes on a more haunting look. I think it perfectly captures the attention as well as the feel and meaning of the story it contains.
Overall Rating: 4.75/5 Baobab Trees
A powerful story of one girl’s kidnapping by Boko Haram. This story will stay with me for quite a while. I was familiar with the story that this book is based on, but reading it made that story so much more impactful. I think the author did an amazing job telling this story through such a truthful, realistic lens. The nameless narrator could be any of the real girls taken by Boko Haram. Her story is one among so many, and it is such an important story that deserves telling.
I highly recommend this book. It’s haunting, horrifying, yet so incredible important. Though the reality of the situation is heartbreaking, this book is a way of reaching millions of people who might have the opportunity to do something about it. I greatly urge you to read it and become familiar with the plight in Nigeria.
Have you read this book or have it on your TBR? Did my review convince you to read it? Let me know in the comments?
How familiar are you with the story of Boko Haram? Let’s chat down below.