Youyoung Lee
August 31, 2007 AT 04:00 AM EDT

When civil war breaks out in an unnamed African country plagued by Christian-vs.-Muslim conflict, 15-year-old My Luck and other Igbo children are recruited as mine-sweepers. Stripped of his vocal cords (”so that we wouldn’t scare each other with our death screams”), My Luck internalizes the violence around him, eventually erupting in gleeful revenge. Chris Abani weaves compassion with horror, as when My Luck executes women feasting on a newborn child. Abani’s bare prose can grow taxing (”the smell is beyond anything I even have words for”), but it underscores Song for Night‘s message: Some stories are too intense for mere language. B

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