In the summer of 1935 Jama is a ten-year-old Somali boy living in the slums of Aden, Yemen. He learns to survive with other young boys in the street. But when Jama loses everything, his whole life changes. He realizes that his only hope of survival is to find his father, who years before left the family to go to Sudan in hopes of a better life.
Jama's journey takes him far from home, through Eritrea and Sudan, to Egypt and Palestine and finally to Britain. Along the way, World War 2 comes to Africa and Jama ends up on a journey he had not planned for.
Black Mamba Boy, though a work of fiction, is based on the story of Nadifa Mohamed's father. It is an incredible story of family, love, war, occupation, resilience, friendship and hope. The story of what happened in Africa during World War 2 is something that is not often seen in fiction. It is a reminder of how much the war affected everyone around the world.
The book is well-written and incredibly descriptive. However, at times it feels as though something is lacking. While Mohamed does an excellent job of recording the many small details, it does feel as though some of the emotion is missing. While the reader may notice this, the incredible story that is being told does make up for it.
Black Mamba Boy is an amazing story of survival and perseverance. Readers will be taken in by Jama's journey, hoping for a happy outcome in the face of adversity. Mohamed is an excellent story-teller and this is a wonderful debut novel. She has given a voice to those in Africa who have been displaced by war, who are fighting for their survival and who will do what it takes to provide for their family.