The Heaven Shop ISBN: 9780192754356
Published by O.U.P., 2004
Binti is 13. She and older sister Junie and brother Kwasi live with their father in Blantyre, Malawi. In a country where no one likes to speak about AIDS, the children haven't been told why their mother died six years ago. The family is poor but hard-working and happy, the children in good schools. Dad makes coffins in 'The Heaven Shop' and Binti has a role in a radio drama, 'Gogo's Family', that is heard all over Malawi. Binti is very proud of her work and feels special because of it. When their father weakens and finally dies from what is obviously an AIDS related illness, the children are sent to live with relations who are so devastatingly cruel as to be Dickensian. Treated as slaves, all their dignity removed, one by one they rebel and are separated. It is only when Binti runs away and finds their grandmother, Gogo, that the family are reunited. Gogo is a wonderfully strong woman who 'collects' orphan children in her very basic village hut and gives them the love they need. This is a powerful novel with some disturbing scenes, but the pictures of Malawi and its people while sometimes brutal is remarkable. Binti learns to get her priorities right, and we learn something about AIDS and its myths and facts. Quite un-put-downable!