Hiding in Plain Sight by Nuruddin Farah, is the predecessor of 11 previous novels published by Farah that have been translated into an array of different languages. Having been published in 2014, Hiding in Plain Sight was selected as one of the best fiction books of 2014 according to Kirkus reviews. The novel touches upon cultural, political, and social conflicts in modern day Africa, while focusing on Bella's adaptation and approach to her new life, leaving behind her upbeat lifestyle, to cater to the needs of two teenage kids who lost their father to a terrorist attack in Somalia.
First, the obvious question: is Valerie justified in her pursuit of the custody of her children? On one hand, she did give birth to them and raise them for several years. On the other hand, she left them to live with her lover and never tried to contact them. No letters, no phone calls, no visits, she practically removed herself from their lives as if she had never been their mother. Only after Aar dies does she take an interest in their lives again. One cannot help but suspect some kind of ulterior motive to it. Then there is the question of if she is even capable of taking care of the children. She does not appear to have a "stable" lifestyle and she had been arrested for homosexuality in Uganda. The last incident speaks volumes of her intelligence, responsibility and risky behavior. Even if she were justified in asking for her children to be placed into her custody, it is doubtful that any court would allow it.
Another question that arises while reading the text is whether or not Bella will be able to make a new life as the head of the household. Before Aar dies, Bella, a highly sought after photographer. is living an extravagant life style, in Rome, and amongst other places. She meets lovers depending on where she is in the world, and solely focusing on her photography. Once she hears of Aar's death she rushes to the aid of the children. Bella claims the title of caretaker of the children quickly, but will she have the patience and knowledge to raise two teenage kids? Throughout the book she proved worthy of establishing that she was the head of the household, always maintaining a level head, and constantly wanting what was best for the children. Even when the children's flamboyant mother enters the scene.
Several important themes arise throughout the progression of the novel, including dedication and death. However, Farah focuses on a vital theme that is apparent throughout the entire novel and that is the ability to sacrifice. At the very beginning of the story Aar is killed, leaving his two kids without a parental guardian. Bella, his sister, hears about her loss, but doesn't dwell on it for a long period and quickly travels to the aid of the children,"Bella simply tells Catherine that she will be on a flight to Nairobi on the morrow" (Farah 23). She leaves everything she had behind, her upbeat lifestyle, her lovers, and her photography work. Bella makes sacrifices in order to comfort and lead the way for Salif and Dahaba. She put her emotions on hold, sacrificing how she feels and what she thinks, in order to come off as a strong level headed guardian for the two teenagers. All characters throughout the book show some sort of sacrificing, often in different forms. Whether it is Salif or Dahaba sacrificing their usual routine before Aar's death in order to make things go as smoothly as possible with Bella as the new guardian, or even Padmini sacrificing her time to follow Valerie around as she is in constant pursuit to gain custody of her children.
Although the main plot of the story is how Bella cared for Aar's children and Valerie's struggle to regain her children's trust, their are undertones that Farah sprinkles throughout the entirety of the book. Sexuality and safety are two of the main undertones that appear in the novel. The reader quickly sees that society is still un-accepting of people with different sexual views. With regards to Valerie and Padmini, they are sent to jail in Uganda for be attracted to women. Even while in Kenya, when Salif and Dahaba realize that their mother is attracted to the same sex, they are taken back and almost disgusted with what they have just discovered. Farah makes it clear that society is still not comfortable with conflicting sexual views and this is shown through Farah's writing. Farah also shows that Africa is not a safe place, and you have to be careful with what you do. For example, Bella was uneasy about travelling alone at night and was even on edge when asked for directions in her car from a truck driver. Farah describes the heavy security around the UN office, which is much needed based off of Aar's death, and the houses that are gated with security guards, discouraging break-ins.
Works Cited:HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT by Nuruddin Farah | Kirkus." Kirkus Reviews. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Jan. 2015