02 Aug / Chanda’s Wars by Allan Stratton
In the six months since Mama passed away, Chanda’s life has changed completely. As the sole provider for her sister Lily and brother Soly, Chanda is unable to continue her own education and instead substitutes at the primary school. With Mama gone, Chanda’s best friend Esther and two of her younger siblings have moved in. Having made an uneasy peace with Esther, who she claimed was a bad influence on Chanda, Mrs. Tafa is a sometimes overbearing guardian who commands (and supports) from next door.
When Chanda’s nightmares become ever more violent, her screaming frights more debilitating, Mrs. Tafa and Esther both convince Chanda she must return to her family’s village with Lily and Soly. There she must secure the blessings of her grandparents and finally put an end to the alleged curse that haunted her long-suffering mother. Unconvinced, Chanda still makes the long journey with her siblings, and for a short time, experiences a joyful extended family reunion.
Her happiness is short-lived when she realizes that she’s to be given to a neighboring family’s son in marriage to assuage the generations-old curse. But before she and her siblings can safely return home to Tiro, vicious rebels from the warring country next door raid the village. Murder, rape, and devastation ensue, and the youngest children are kidnapped to serve as child soldiers.
Against impossible odds, Chanda promises she will rescue her siblings, even if she has to rely on the help of her rejected intended, Nelson, who has a younger brother of his own he’s determined to save. Chanda and Nelson endure brutal conditions, witness unthinkable horrors, and somehow remain hopeful that their families will be reunited … what the children must survive is the most atrocious tragedy of all.
Canadian playwright and author Allan Stratton continues the story he began in his bestselling, mega award-winning Chanda’s Secrets with another haunting illumination of young Chanda’s difficult life. Stratton is fully aware that instant answers and happy endings are impossible in an area ravaged by disease, destruction, and war, and yet he’s careful never to sensationalize.
While the African country here remains unnamed, Chanda’s story could be set anywhere in the world – far too many places – where horrific events continue, especially as they affect children. Stratton convincingly crafts another necessary reminder that children have no true future without peace … and that peace is the one non-negotiable legacy we must somehow ensure.
Readers: Young Adult