Triquarterly Books, Northwestern University Press

Nominated for the Dublin IMPAC Award

A Notable Book of the Year:
New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times

Memory and anxiety are intertwined in a lyrical autobiographical novel, set in West Africa, that illuminates the losses and lapses of motherhood.—NEW YORK 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

Continuity and the binding of generations: Whether explored in remote, exotic Niger or in the confines of family life, these are Hill's abiding concerns in her elegantly evocative book.—LOS ANGELES TIMES

This book captures love and desperation in lives that are humanized through our recognition of some part of ourselves—the holiness of shadows and how they measure the imaginative landscape. Still Waters in Niger is a prayer for the characters, a prayer for us who render a semblance of care and understanding. Endurance is the code word where something old lives in the present and the future.—YUSUF KOMUNYAKAA

FAMINE IS A GEOGRAPHY of haunted places. In Kathleen Hill's luminous novel about hunger, Still Waters in Niger, the heart too is a haunted and hungry place. How many of us could find on a world map the sun-struck city of Zinder, lashed by sand and beset by famine in West African Niger? But for the Irish-American narrator of Hill's exquisitely crafted novel, it was there, in Zinder, "floating the seeds of life and death indifferently," that desire fastened. Zinder was "a case, always, of unrequited love....."

The spareness of the plot becomes itself the plot: the narrator's dawning discovery that the place, Zinder, which she "had thought commonplace, even undesirable, has become as necessary to you as your breath and that without it you will die." One question courses through the book: "What does one need to live?" A handful of millet? A cup of beans? A breast plump with milk? The frangipani heavy with blossom?"

"The indispensable potato, rotting in the field?" Now in Zinder, the narrator recalls another great hunger: the Irish famine of her own family past, the starving man, teeth black with hunger, the woman distraught with desire: "It can seem a matter of shame, a hunger as desperate as this. She is sick with desire, she cannot help herself. It is a case of someone lost to the world. But for what is she starved? A turnip? The face of God? A caress?" Hill's quiet exploration of the hauntings and hungers of motherhood makes this novel a work of startling power.   —ANNE McCLINTOCK, excerpt from a book review in The Women's Review of Books, XVII, 5, February 2000

"Several times a day each person in Matameye reminds others, and is reminded in turn, that all life hangs on the certain journey of the sun across the sky and the highly uncertain fall of rain, that work is a gift for which thanks must be given, that blood relations may be expected to answer for one another, and that peace of heart is acquired through the long practice of patience." Matameye is one of the desert cities that assume major roles in Kathleen Hill's distinguished autobigraphical novel, Still Waters in Niger. The cleaver-shaped country of Niger in northwest Africa is a place most Amer-icans might be hard put to situate geographically; but this book, with its superb evocations of landscape, brings its vistas of sand under the deep blue dome of sky into vivid existence.....

The memorable, lyrical writing conveys the shapes and sounds of the natural world: a sky blanched white with heat, the thud of a pestle in a bowl. Ultimately, however, the narrator ponders the moral issues of parenthood. The sticker on the rear window of her ramshackle taxi reminds her of Job's questions. The legend on the sticker "Everything Comes from Allah" is imprinted on "the solemn weight of all our griefs, the gravity of sorrow." Nevertheless, the prevailing spirit of Kathleen Hill's novel is not of pain, but of the kinship of life everywhere.— ROBERT TAYLOR, excerpt from a book review in the Boston Globe, July 7, 1999