Sunday 2 December 2012

Ibarajo Road

Ibarajo Road by Harry Allen (Walker Books)
PB RRP $16.95
ISBN 978-1-84780-320-7
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

The story opens with a shocking scene Charlie witnesses on his way to school. Two children are run over by a car as they play a dangerous game of dare in the busy street. The driver is hauled from the car, attacked by bystanders, then ‘necklaced’ with a tyre.

Charlie is a student at an elite American school in West Africa. His father’s work has sent him from Hampshire and all the modern conveniences of life, to an area of abject poverty. Charlie is easily influenced by Max and his group of followers, who ridicule and belittle Guppy, a fellow student with a pronounced limp due to a birth defect. Despite this, Guppy likes being with Charlie for he sees his true nature.

Charlie must fit in, regardless of feeling uncomfortable doing as the others do. For this reason he agrees to go to a prohibited bar at Max’s suggestion, and against his parents’ wishes, while they are away. This evening changes his and Guppy’s life forever because of the brutality of the events that occur and the following outcome.

Threatened with expulsion from school with his diploma at stake, Charlie agrees to his mother’s suggestion to volunteer at a refuge that shelters lepers, addicts, homeless and orphans. Guppy, having met the same fate as Charlie, accompanies him. Here the two boys see the hard side of life.

They learn that poverty forces good people to become bad and quickly discover how evil and corrupt the rich and powerful are, and how lawless the law keepers. They don’t realize how far the abuse of power and its manipulation extends until they are forced to take action themselves in order to save the refuge and their lives.

This is a profoundly moving, and confronting story about the obsession of power, the complete disregard for human life, and how far people will go to gain money and control over others. It is written in descriptive and flowing prose which brings the reader into the scenes of each chapter. The characters are strong and powerful, even in their weaknesses, and weak even when showing strength.

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