A coming-of-age tale in a foreign land

Nancy Chrislett releases debut novel

Nancy Chislett’s novel Bombing the Moon is a story of youthful self-discovery set against the backdrop of Kenya’s tumultuous 2007 election. (Supplied photo)

After travelling to more than 50 countries, local author Nancy Chislett was inspired to write her first novel, which is set in Nairobi, Kenya. Bombing the Moon tells the story of 24-year-old Devin Rush, whose grandfather gives him a one-way ticket to Nairobi, where Devin hopes to flee from family pressure and determine his goals for the future.

Although many things drew Chislett to tell this story, she primarily wanted to break down stereotypes about visiting Africa. Having travelled to Nairobi before writing the novel, she felt it was important to highlight her transformative experience through the protagonist’s journey.

“Part of it was because a lot of people think that going to Africa seems scary. I thought that I might use this as an advantage to enlighten them a little bit. I really wanted to shed that first-world gaze. As a writer, I am challenged with writing things as they are and talk(ing) to people that are there, (being) transformed by that and (using) it in a responsible way,” Chislett says.

Throughout the novel, Devin learns to become independent and make important decisions during the politically tense 2007 election in Kenya. He is also faced with the question of either staying or returning to Winnipeg and reconnecting with his family after not talking to them for a long time.

“By the end of the story, he has been through a lot in over the span of a year,” Chislett says.

Although the focus is on the protagonist, the novel was written from four different perspectives. Chislett says giving a unique voice to each character was one of the greatest challenges she encountered as a new writer.

“When you have four different characters, they have to sound different, so I spent a lot of time trying to find out voices and define (them) for myself. I used my experience with music to figure out the pace and rhythm of their conversations,” she says.

The narrators include Devin’s family members, who play a significant role in the protagonist’s decision to go to Nairobi and prove himself to them. The novel’s focus on family dynamics was another theme Chislett wanted to explore.

“I believe that there is something primal for parents to think that they gave you a life and everything that they could give you. I also thought about how we all live under one roof but might not know each other all that well,” Chislett says.

In addition to making sure that Devin had a different perspective than his family, the author wanted to write about young adults who are still trying to figure life out.

“Looking around, I’d notice people would have kids who are at home and don’t seem to have a plan, so I started to think about that,” she says.

Bombing the Moon comes out on April 15, and its book launch event takes place on April 22 in person at the McNally Robinson Grant Park atrium. Lara Rae will host, and the book launch will be streamed to YouTube on the McNally Robinson Online Events channel.

Published in Volume 76, Number 22 of The Uniter (March 23, 2022)

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