Buried beneath the Baobab Tree is as gripping a book as it is heart-rending. Written in an unconventional style for a novel, it tells a story of war, death, and grief, of friendship and betrayal, aspirations and shattered dreams.

Salamatu is a young girl dealing with typical growing girl issues and chasing her dreams of education and love when her idyllic life is suddenly flipped upside down. Men of the dreaded terrorist group, Boko Haram, storm her village in Borno State, and in the ensuing melee, her father and others are murdered. Thankfully her mother is away at a wedding at the time, but she, her brother Jacob, her friends Aisha and Sarah, and other children are abducted.

In a memoir-like fashion, we experience her travails alongside others as they are forced into becoming sex slaves, brides, and soldiers by their new owners. Rape, torture, and psychological abuse are tools readily employed by their captors in breaking their spirits. We are also taken on a behind-the-scenes tour of the enigmatic Sambisa forest hideout to witness the misery of living a spartan life in close quarters with the dastardly merchants of death, and to breathe their horror at being forced to watch the brutal executions of captured prisoners of war. Suffering, of course, reveals human foibles, and in no time, long term friendships and trusts are eroded and bonds are broken in the battle for survival.

Adaobi brings the horror of the insurgency in Northern Nigeria into the safety of our homes with her skillful writing. She infuses life into events, puts names and faces to statistics cursorily mentioned on the daily news, and reveals scars forever imprinted on the minds of those lucky to escape or be rescued. For the lives lost, we can only mourn. The only thing more heartbreaking than the pains of the characters in this book is the knowledge that these events happened (and are still happening) to real people in this country, many of whom will never be known.

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