No need to come up with a creative post name when the title of the book fits perfectly! Camilla Gibb’s “Sweetness in the Belly” was one of my favourite reads in April, and definitely left me with a satisfied taste for Gibb’s writing. I have been wanting to read something by this iconic Canadian author for awhile, and I’m so glad that I finally did. This book tells the story of Lilly, an orphaned white woman raised in Ethiopia in a devout Muslim community. When Ethiopia undergoes a political upheaval, Lilly is forced to return to Britain, her country of birth that hold no memories for her. She leaves behind the ones she loves in Ethiopia and spends years searching for knowledge of their whereabouts like many other refugees in Britain.
I found this story interesting in light of the current refugee crisis that the world is facing. I couldn’t help but see reflected in Lilly’s narrative the stories of the thousands of refugees; the struggle to gain a balance of fitting into their new countries while retaining their cultural roots. Lilly’s story also highlighted how even the religious practices can be challenging to navigate. Lilly grew up with Muslim practices that involved saints, incense and ceremonies of significance. The Islam taught in the Mosque she attends in Britain rejects the traditions that Lilly holds dear. It made me sad that even in her religious institution she could not feel truly at home, yet I was impressed with her determination in maintaining her ceremonies even when she saw fellow Ethiopians discarding them for more European-sanctioned beliefs.
Lilly’s story also highlighted that even while she adjusted to life in Britain, her real desire was to return to her life back in Ethiopia; a place she views as her true home. Yet as she learns more about the current state of Ethiopia from the flood of refugees, she realizes that she can never return because the Ethiopia of her youth doesn’t exist anymore. This made me reflect on stories I’ve heard on the radio featuring refugees, who are grateful for their new lives in Canada but wish that they could have stayed in their country as it was during the time of peace. How hard it must be to be forced out of the place you love and watch the destruction of the home you knew.
Within the captivating fictional narrative of “Sweetness in the Belly” is a deep reflection on home, country, religion and identity that left me mulling over long after I’d chewed through the last page of this book.
5/5 bacon strips