Jama is a half-feral child scavenging with his friends in the dusty streets of a great seaport. For Jama, life is a carnival, at least when he can fill his belly. When his mother dies young, she leaves him only an amulet stuffed with one hundred rupees. Jama decides to spend her life's meager savings to search for his missing father, rumored to be a driver for the British in the north.
So begins Jama's extraordinary journey of more than a thousand miles to Egypt. He slings himself from one perilous city to another, fiercely enjoying life on the road and relying on his vast clan network to shelter him and point the way to his father, who always seems just out of reach.
In his travels, Jama will witness scenes of great humanity and brutality; he will be caught up in the indifferent, grinding machine of war; he will crisscross the Red Sea in search of working papers and a ship.
“[A] beautifully rendered debut….Jama is a charming protagonist whose peregrinations—assisted by clansmen, kind strangers, and ghostly visitations—are directed more by historical and biographical significance than by the demands of plot. Mohamed vividly recreates the complex atmosphere of the era, and her personal investment in the story gives it a passionate edge." (
“An accomplished first novel.” (