A Notable Book, The New York Times,
Best Fiction, Los Angeles Times
Nominated for the Dublin IMPAC Award.
Starred Review, Publisher’s Weekly
IN THIS autobiographical novel, an Irish-American woman who had lived in the West African country of Niger as the wife of an academic and the mother of three small children returns after seventeen years to visit her eldest daughter, Zara, who has herself returned to Niger during a season of devastating drought. Zara now works in a village clinic and treats children suffering from starvation. As the narrator reacquaints herself with her daughter and with the Africa of her own past, she meets other mothers and their children. Her own resurrected memories of young motherhood strong, she becomes aware of the strikingly similar ways in which the impassioned and often difficult bonds between mothers and daughters are revealed across the divide of cultures. Guided by Zara, she encounters hunger not only in its literal and most devastating form, but in other guises as well: the hunger of memory when she and Zara return to the desert city of Zinder in search of the house where they had once lived; and finally hunger for what is nearest and furthest away in her solitary encounters with a one-legged boy who befriends her and offers a startling and inestimable gift.
Praise for Still Waters in Niger
“Although billed as an autobiographical novel, it reads just like a memoir: pensive, particular, and honest. ‘How to speak to the silences, the spaces between?’ the narrator asks. Hill . . . has had the courage and skill to do just that.”—New York Times Book Review
“Although modest in plot, it is abundant in understanding.”—Los Angeles Times
“In this resonant novel, an Irish-American rediscovers the strong ties that bind her to the West African country she left long ago.”—Chicago Tribune
“A beautiful book, with great lyric power and emotional resonance. In combining her passion for her daughter with her passion for experience and to know the world, Kathleen Hill makes a great contribution to our store of information about how women live. I am full of admiration for this small miracle.”—MARY GORDON
“Here is a novel of fine social and cross-cultural observation, and, too, of moral inwardness–a wonderfully knowing storyteller with a strong spiritual bent tell us so very much about idealism and its vicissitudes, parenthood and its possibilities.”—ROBERT COLES
“The narrator’s profound, unflashy observations about motherhood, the necessities and extravagances of survival, the effect of travel and dislocation and the peculiar beauty of the drought-struck land are the work of a brilliant essayist. Hill avoids both overexplaining and overexclaiming, and subtly flavors her story with words of the native Hausa language as well as the French of the colonists. Evocative dreams and disturbing memories, superimposed on the narrator’s present experience, make a patchwork travelogue similar in effect to Ondaatje’s Running in the Family. An exquisite piece of writing.”—Publisher’s Weekly *