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Farewell, My Orange

Newspaper: Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Date: Sep 26 2018

Kei’s intense and impressive debut is the story of two women who bond in their adopted country of Australia, discovering the power of language, friendship, and family. Anchoring the narrative is the heartbreaking struggle of Nigerian refugee Salimah, who is abandoned in a small town by her husband and, unable to speak English, enrolls in a language class and finds a job as a meat packager at a supermarket. In alternating chapters, Japanese-born Echidna, who also attends the English class, writes letters to a favorite teacher, unveiling her disappointment as a writer, new mom, and wife of an often absent husband. The women help one another through their darkest moment: the loss of a child. “When I came here, I learned to do things I couldn’t do before... Even though I’m alone, I’m happy,” Salimah reveals in a presentation that Echidna has helped her with. And Salimah is the mentor for Echidna who, after her baby’s death, takes a job alongside Salimah. “I’ve had enough, of university, of study, maybe even of my family,” she laments. “The only thing that I can hang onto in this country now is money.” Kei adroitly intertwines these remarkable characters’ dreams and determination, making for an immigrant tale that readers won’t forget. (Nov.)