Booklist Reviews

Forna follows up her memoir, The Devil That Danced on the Water (2003), with a novel that explores relationships among co-wives in an African village as they cope with religious and political changes that wreak instability in the family complex. Abie is a young woman from West Africa who has lived in England for many years. She left as a child, went to college, and married a Scotsman, with only infrequent visits to keep her attached to her homeland. When she inherits her father's coffee plantation, she returns to face memories and to confront realities of a troubled nation that she has only viewed on the television screen. In simple, subtle stories, Forna conveys the complexity of life in small African villages as Abie's aunts recall their youth, courtships, and lives as co-wives, finding friendships or bitter rivalries. Through the stories of these women, Abie learns of old folkways and modern religious and political strife, as well as enduring lessons of family and kinship. ((Reviewed September 1, 2006)) Copyright 2006 Booklist Reviews

Choice Reviews

This debut novel is Forna's second book. Coming in the footsteps of her critically acclaimed The Devil That Danced on Water: A Daughter's Memoir (2002), Ancestor Stones reads much like a memoir but--perhaps for that reason--is less compelling than her earlier work. Told in the first person, this is the story of the Khotta family. Forna explores place and past, juxtaposing the differences between West Africa and London against a generation of women's stories. The end result is a novel that is readable but not particularly challenging. Summing Up: Optional. General readers only. Copyright 2007 American Library Association.

Kirkus Reviews

A British writer casts back nostalgically to the stories of her West African female ancestors to evoke lyrically the lost village traditions of her family.Abie, a wife and mother of West African descent now professionally established in England, receives a letter from her cousin Alpha, offering her the family coffee plantation in the family village of Rofathane. Abie receives the news as a kind of fatal directive, since she always knew she would be going back to Rofathane. Once she returns and begins to listen to the testimonies of her aunts, she senses how they "lifted the past from their own shoulders" and handed it to Abie, who thus presents these stories in separate chapters, from the aunts' girlhood in the 1930s, through their late life in the '90s. First, there is the tale of Asana, the firstborn of the family headed by a respected chief advisor of the village and his first wife (indeed, Asana's father would have several wives, leading to terrible complications and rivalries). Except that a brother is born after her, and takes her place, although he is sickly and eventually dies. Soon, the father becomes a prosperous coffee-grower, and Asana enters into an unhappy marriage, although she finds fulfillment later in life, a widowed businesswoman who chooses the status of "mambore," or woman who lived as a man. Next, Mary, who has a sloping eye, remembers when the Muslim leader Haidera Kontorfili visited the village, to great fanfare. Then Hawa, whose mother is the father's sixth wife, and whose narrative is full of village gossip. And finally, Serah, who recalls the coming of the so-called Cement Man in the 1950s and the beginnings of modernization in the village and civil war; later, she becomes a record of the first elections and fraught issues around voting. Forna (The Devil That Danced on the Water, 2003) creates, through the voices of these wizened creatures, a richly patterned mosaic of African culture and history.Gorgeous and dreamlike. Copyright Kirkus 2006 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Journal Reviews

Abie, a West African woman who has lived in London for years, learns that she has inherited the family coffee plantation in her native village. Abie returns to consider her inheritance and visits with four of her aunts, daughters of four of the 11 wives of her great-grandfather. The aunts tell Abie their life stories, which span nearly a century. They describe the founding of the village and the coffee plantation, what it was like seeing a white man for the first time, the end of colonialism, the first elections, political and religious upheaval, and the social implications of polygamous families. Because of the shifting time periods, the array of names, and the complicated family connections, the characters blend together, and it is difficult to identify each from one story to the next. However, Forna, whose memoir, The Devil That Danced on the Water , received critical acclaim, beautifully crafts an intimate portrait of the evolution of one West African community. Without didacticism, she illuminates the intricacies of the relationships and customs and the progress and decline of this particular family. Highly recommended for all libraries collecting fiction.â€"Rebecca Stuhr, Grinnell Coll. Libs., IA

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Publishers Weekly Reviews

Acclaimed memoirist Forna (The Devil That Danced on the Water ) glides into fiction with this sweeping portrayal of the lives of five Sierra Leonean women. Abie a young woman born and raised in Sierra Leone, who now lives in London with her Portuguese-Scottish husband and their children receives a letter from her aunts informing her they're bequeathing her the family coffee plantation. When Abie returns, her aunts offer her another gift: their stories. A native of Sierra Leone, Forna unpacks Abie's family history (and that of Sierra Leone) using the alternating points of view of Abie's four aunts Asana, Mary, Hawa and Serah. Asana outlives two husbands and eventually opens her own store, "relinquishing the birthright of womanhood in exchange for the liberty of a man." Mary addresses the changes brought to Africa by the Europeans (prominent among them, the mirror she uses to examine her disfigured face). Hawa trades her gold earrings for bus fare in order to see the sea just once in her life. And Serah opens a voting station during corrupt national elections. Though it's a stretch to call this a novel (each chapter is a self-contained story), Forna's work sheds light on the history of a long-struggling nation. (Sept.)

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