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BBC Radio 4′s Book of the week, Red Dust Road by Jackie Kay, is a delight on many levels. (Independent review here; see also the Amazon reviews).

I would like to buy an unabridged audio book but so far I can find only the hardback on Amazon, but I’m here to tell you, as a friend mine used to say (and probably still does), that it’s worth looking out for and, even better, listening to.

Kay hadn’t registered on my radar at all until I accidentally heard the 1st episode of her reading an abridged version of this, her latest book, and was compelled to listen to the rest. She had an arresting and interesting voice, one of those voices that you want to listen to. My affection for the softer female cadences of Scotland is renewed now and then. How often we say

It’s good to see you again!

when sometimes it is as much of a pleasure to hear you again.

The book is the story of Kay’s search for her genetic parents. Her father was a Nigerian who studied in Aberdeen and her mother was a Scottish nurse. She was adopted and brought up in Glasgow.

It’s an altogether different book from Barack Obama’s Dreams From My Father, which I couldn’t help recalling. Obama was always connected to a part of his family; only his father’s side was a mystery. Kay’s journey is into the unknown.

She’s a joy to listen to. Her recall of Nigerian speech, overlain with her Scottish tones, is glorious and heart warming — bound to tickle any who can hear in their memories the African cadences she recaptures. In places, she’s hilarious, as when concluding that her father

is barking mad!

after he spends two hours praying for her when he meets her. Touchingly however, she spots her toes on his bare feet during his prayerful pirouetting around her hotel room. Her father rejects her and keeps her existence secret from the rest of his family.

Years later there are some more jolts of recognition: a half-brother who shares her laugh, her forehead and more, and who melts her heart by immediately accepting her and acknowledging her as a sister. Her excitement at being greeted as a sister is palpable.

It was a wonderful, charming story, the telling of which could not have been bettered.  Highly recommended. I’ve found someone I’d like to hear more of. Meanwhile, I’m going out to buy the book.

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