Author: Véronique Olmi  Translated by Adriana Hunter

Publisher: Other Press

ISBN-10: 1590519779 ISBN-13: 978-1590519776

She is five years old.  A child.  Innocent.   Loving.  Trusting. And then - terrorized as abductors storm into the village in Darfur, southern Sudan and ... take (everything if not already on fire); take ... everyone (if not already dead or dismembered or hiding).  The child survives. Her twin and older sister and countless others in the village do not.

And then, two years later, abduction as she is dragged away by slave traders with a knife at her throat, beginning years of unspeakable terror and obliteration of her identity.  Given the name: Bakhita (a cruel twist, for it means the ‘lucky one’ in Arabic), she is anything but ‘lucky.’   Walking thousands of miles, solid steel chain around her throat, she suffers from abominable heat, dehydration and constant beatings; watches others being tortured, tattooed to death and experiences cruelty, abuse, separation and physical suffering beyond imagining for years.  Sold and resold along the slave trade routes, humiliated by the physical examinations, it is inconceivable how she endures with no hope of rescue or freedom or relief from the daily suffering.  

When she is thirteen, the Italian consul in Khartoum purchases her and takes her to Italy where, by a circuitous route, she enters the Canossian Sisters convent, discovers hope.  Ultimately, a spiritual path of religious life begins to unfold in spite of the cruel racist comments and actions that come her way over the years.  Somehow, Madre Giuseppina Bakhita (Mother Josephine Bakhita) rises above it all.  In 1995 the Church declares her to be the patron of Sudan and five years later, Pope John Paul 11 declares her to be a Saint.

Véronique Olmi’s descriptive language puts the reader right beside Bakhita who must endure each day - stumbling, bleeding, suffering, without a break.  The editor’s insertion of extra spaces between paragraphs and the italicization of the first several words in each paragraph gives the reader that much-needed break and space to breathe and think.

This is an intimate, moving story, powerful and captivatinginly set in a historical context from the civil war in Sudan to WW1 and WW11, and the fascist reign of Mussolini, told by a very skilled writer who knows how to write exceptionally well.  While the reader is faced with questions throughout the reading of the book (cruelty of human beings; suffering; racism; the importance of one’s name; faith, luck/co-incidence/God’s will; war; slavery; and more), those questions are important questions to ask of oneself and clearly demonstrates the skill of this writer to be more than a writer who simply puts words on paper to tell a story.  She challenges readers to think.  Few writers can do that as effectively as Véronique Olmi can ... and does.