The novella Song for Night, by Chris Abani, haunts it’s readers with the vivid accounts of a child soldier fighting in a civil war raging in Congo, Africa. The bold and heartbreaking tale of a boy, My Luck, who narrates his journey of self-actualization, forgiveness, love, and finally the acceptance of his own demise as the story begins with his death. This book, saturated with morbid imagery, violent diction, and religious allusions, weaves an intricate theme of death amongst the stories of the young man’s life; journey’s both shocking as they are profound. The reader is struck immediately by mankind’s propensity to destroy cultures, innocence, and lives within the reminiscent account of a young man traveling through the afterlife in search of peace.
Reading Song For Night was like watching a tangible fable; it felt jarring and mesmerizing in equal measure as imagery draws a reader into the horrors of war. Even the title, Song For Night, draws upon our preconceived notions of death being a infinite slumber, the endless night, giving way to the imagery of death.
Abani masterfully draws his readers focus to the atrocities of both sides of Congo’s civil unrest with a diction that focuses not on politics but on the human sacrifice. Given the apt description throughout the book it is hard not to imagine the horrific journey My Luck takes the reader on. It was hard to read but necessary to inspire action, change, and compassion for all who live through such circumstances.
Lastly, Song For Night subtly includes many different religious allusions into a mosaic of faith much like Africa itself. My Luck refers to his father’s faith in Islam, his mother’s Catholic beliefs, and his Grandfather’s mythical beliefs that tied into all the aspects that built him into the young man he became. Every story, every step of his journey reflects these differing faiths but all eventually lead him to the final peace he seeks within the book. He is constantly confused as to why he is drawn to this journey, at times he is stuck in places or within memories that he replays in order to make sense of his former life, much like we do; such is the human condition. Abani saturates the novella with phrases, words, references, allusions, and clever reflection that confounds the reader into thinking My Luck is in fact alive only to realize he is lingering between life and death in a purgatory-like-state of unrest. I think we can all relate to the precarious balance between what was and what-is-to-be as life itself is a series of choices giving way to new journeys.
Beautiful in it’s devastation; shocking in it’s honesty; Song For Night is a breathtaking book of loss, grief, survival, and the painful journey to find peace after an endless war.
4 1/2- Stars!