Protagonist Fina’s search for happiness and belonging begins on the night of her aborted circumcision and continues through her teenage years in Freetown, Sierra Leone’s capital; her twenties in the Washington Metropolitan Area; and ends with her return to Sierra Leone to work as an advocate for war-traumatized children.
The novel explores the problems she encounters in each setting against the backdrop of the tensions, ambiguities, and fragmentation of the stranger/immigrant condition and the characters’ struggles to clarify their ideas about “home” and “abroad.”
Fina’s circumcision gets significant, though not sensational, play in the different attitudes toward the practice between her and her fiancé Cammy, a Trinidadian urologist. The differences complicate their relationship at a time when skeletons from their pasts threaten their impending marriage.
The stories of Fina’s friend, African-American Aman and her fiancé, Nigerian Bayo; of Edna (Fina’s foster sister) and her husband Kizzy; and of Mawaf, a war-traumatized teen, unfold in subplots that merge with the main plot and overarching theme of belonging as characters straddle “home” and “abroad” places.