Today on the blog I am delighted to welcome Yaba Badoe with an extract of her novel A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars, published by Head Of Zeus on the 7th of September, 2017. A Young Adult novel tackling such subjects and human trafficking and African folklore.
A powerful, haunting, contemporary debut that steps seamlessly from the horrors of people-trafficking to the magic of African folklore, by an award-winning Ghanaian-British filmmaker.
Sante was a baby when she was washed ashore in a sea-chest laden with treasure. It seems she is the sole survivor of the tragic sinking of a ship carrying migrants and refugees. Her people.
Fourteen years on she’s a member of Mama Rose’s unique and dazzling circus. But, from their watery grave, the unquiet dead are calling Sante to avenge them:
A bamboo flute. A golden bangle. A ripening mango which must not fall… if Sante is to tell their story and her own.
Rich in the rhythms and colours of Africa and glittering circus days. Unflinching in its dark revelations about life. Yaba Badoe’s novel is beautiful and cruel and will linger long in the memory.
A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars ~ Extract
Mama Rose calls me a second time, then again. Third time lucky. I follow her voice and find her sitting on a cushion in the back of our truck. Redwood’s opposite her. On her right is a mahogany sea-chest. From the resolute expression in her dark eyes, seems Mama Rose has been building up to this moment for a long while, longer than yesterday. Those eyes and her clothes tell me this is serious; life and death serious. Must be, ’cause she’s changed out of overalls into her thinking gear: an indigo kimono, a band belted around her waist. And in her hair, a black lacquered chopstick speared through a bun on top of her head. In the same way that my thoughts untangle in the grey dawn of morning, Mama Rose’s thinking flows freely when she dresses as a geisha. There’s a formality about the attire, a measured elegance, she says, that assists her reasoning. She hasn’t powdered her cheeks white this time, though her face is ashen.
‘Sante-girl,’ she says to me when I climb into the back. ‘Come here. Let me touch you again, make sure you’re OK.’
I’m no longer a toddler learning to fly with Priss, so I don’t normally like her to fuss over me. I may have tumbled over the rooftops of Cádiz, but I’ve no serious injuries to speak of. All the same, given the ache in my heart, I let her.
She smoothes the curve of my cheek, then sidles up to me and hugs me tight. So tight, the jagged edges of our conversation last night, and my frustration with Cobra, tip into tears. And instead of asking questions about who I am and where I come from, instead of demanding to know why she went to see the African and Grey Eyes without me, I curl up beside her and howl louder than a hyena at full moon. ‘I don’t think Cobra’s going to marry me anymore, Mama Rose.’
She pats my head, holds me close, and rocks me in those big fleshy arms of hers. Laughs, then says, ‘Why do you think I asked you, in particular, if you wanted Scarlett to stay, Sante-girl?’
With my feelings as mangled as they are, I can’t find the words to answer.
‘Doing the right thing isn’t always easy,’ Mama Rose smiles. ‘Truth be told, I’m proud of you, Sante. You said what needed to be said back there. Not an easy task when Cobra and Cat are behaving like two polecats in heat. Is that it? Is that what’s bothering you?’
I sob. All I can think about is Cobra. Cobra and Scarlett. Should be focused on more urgent matters, but just thinking about them excites me. I lay my head on Mama Rose’s lap, and squeeze my eyes tight to shut out the world. Cobra especially.
‘Now, now, Sante,’ Mama Rose says. ‘You’ve got to learn to exercise patience with Cobra. A girl has to exercise patience with any human of the male persuasion. You set your heart on the boy when you were knee-high to a grasshopper, and from what I know about the two of you, there’s no one in the whole wide world but you crazy enough to have him.’
Her words, designed to soothe, don’t reassure me. In fact, now I’ve started, there’s no stopping my tears and the fury behind them. I’m too angry to talk, ask questions, make a plan. Seems all I can do is wail like a fool. Howl and hiss in a tantrum that starts Priss yelping as well.
Mama Rose cradles me in her arms. ‘I told you,’ she says to Redwood. ‘The child’s not ready yet. She’s too young to know. Too young to be making decisions on her own.’
Redwood leans forwards: ‘Tell her,’ he insists. ‘Ready or not, it’s time, Rosie. She deserves to know what you’ve done for her and what those men want. And there’s no better time than the present.’
I hate it when Old Ones talk over my head. Hate it so much that to stop my caterwauling and sober up quick, I bite my lip until I taste blood. Even so, takes some time for the sobbing to cease while Mama Rose hugs me tighter, cleaving to me. I reckon she doesn’t want me to grow up. Doesn’t want me to find my monsters and slay ’em.
I pull away from her and settle on a cushion. Wipe tears from my eyes and take her hand. ‘Tell me about the African and his friend, Mama Rose. Tell me what happened to my family. Why did they cast me into the sea? I want to know, ’cause I won’t be able to fly free like Priss till I do.’
Mama Rose sighs, a long, shuddering release of breath that signals the end of our old life and the start of something new. Then she tells me.
Thank you so much to Yaba Badoe and Head of Zeus for the opportunity to be on the blog tour today and also for a copy of A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars to review at a later date. We use Amazon buy links in our features.