Book Reflections – Kima by A.H. Amin
Kima is a gentle story about embracing uncertainty, friendship, extending personal boundaries and environmental awareness.
The large ocean stood before her now. She ultimately decided to swim away from her past and into what was left of her future… she was hesitant at first, but she fought it off, trying to overcome her fear. She swam fast, like she always did just before she emerged. She went up and jumped, looking towards her destination.
Set in South Africa in 1928, the story begins with two children (Alex and Alison) taking a midnight walk together without adult supervision. Alex walks into a pod of beached false killer whales in the dark and is scared witless, to the extent that he is taken to hospital to convalesce. It’s not clear what exactly about touching the sea creatures on the beach scared Alex so badly but I do remember that all experiences were heightened when I was a child.
In the hospital Alex is visited by Alison (who insists on being called Alice because she feels that she is Alice in Wonderland). They are joined by an elderly woman named Kima who can read the emotions and thoughts of people and animals. Kima is able to read the feelings of Alex, who continues not to speak, and decides to attempt to heal him by telling him a story from her childhood that begins with a black seagull.
The story involves a journey with a grey wolf, a dolphin and an enormous whale. This unlikely group of animals must unite to reach their important quest. The animals must all push their usual boundaries and open their hearts and minds to achieve their shared goal.
The storytelling by Kima is repeatedly interrupted but she always finds a way to continue the story to the children, Alex and Alice. Interwoven with the storytelling we learn about the home lives of Alex and Alice and the different challenges that each faces. There is also a confrontation between a friend of Alex’s father and Kima and that is when it becomes clear to the reader that Kima is indigenous and considered untrustworthy by the family friend. That is the most blatant race interaction in the book. We are also introduced to the concerns of the indigenous people about what they consider to be the environmental implications of the technology being implemented in South Africa, like the electric power plant where Alex’s father works.
I enjoyed reading the story and I like Amin’s writing style. I would be happy to recommend the book to older children because the story is gentle and does not deal with frightening or overly adult themes. Typographical errors are scattered throughout the book but these do not interfere with the reader’s understanding. Similarly the book would benefit from some editing but it still reads clearly as it is now.
I was asked to review this book by the author.