Fly Me Home

Leelu Olawale and her brother Tiber have moved to London with their mother, leaving their father at home in a foreign country. Where that home is remains unspecified, but the author has said that she considers it to be Nigeria. The ambiguity serves as a reminder of how central migration is to contemporary life, and allows the reader to bring their own experience to bear on the story. The little family is hard-up and living in substandard accommodation, a situation which will resonate with many Irish readers.

Leelu is at first too shy to speak at school, and Tiber, who is some years older, gets into trouble hanging around with a gang. Hope comes in the form of Betsy, a little girl from Colombia and a strange old man called Bo who, in his reclusive eccentricity and in his leaving of gifts in the crook of a tree, seems to reference Boo Radley in To Kill a Mocking Bird.

Against this backdrop, Ho-Yen introduces a fantasy element to the story – the little gifts which Bo leaves for Leelu to help her adjust to city life are natural objects such as walnuts and leaves which are imbued with special powers. This fantasy element isn’t hugely convincing, and the language used seems slightly at odds with Leelu’s first person narrative, but this is nevertheless a charming story and an interesting exploration of the concept of home.