By Patrick Nzabonimpa

Amife Sabatina’s debut book, Little Words, delves into essential topics characteristic of daily human life through a captivating mix of prose and poetry.

Across its 11 chapters, the book explores the art of survival and the pursuit of joy amidst life’s challenges. Through a unique perspective that is above all deeply honest, Sabatina explores the contemporary issues we all face in modern times and weaves in answers to enigmatic problems.

The book opens with Born, an urgent and powerful message to its reader to create a story. Accompanied with a minimal drawing of a door leading to an unknown abyss, the title leaves a gripping impact in its few words: “A quick opening for a quick life. Hurry and make a story. Hurry! A quick moment and it’ll be time to die.”

A flip of that page leads readers into lithe writings of nature, childhood memories, and getting lost in the transformative art of reading; soon contrasted with the pain of dysmorphic body image, familial links to colonialism and tensions between language, culture, and identity.

In Chapter 4, the piece, Who Are You? is profoundly intriguing. A poetic exploration of identity that creates ambiguity around the author’s sense of self, it ousts societal standards for rigid self-classification when it says “I do not want to be anything, I want to do something”. This stance is not far removed from More Alive, another prose within the chapter, encouraging readers to rebel against societal expectations if it goes against their true joy.

In Solitude, the power of introspection and self-reflection is described eloquently through vivid imagery and anaphora, sealing the importance of seeking purpose outside societal structures.

An equally impactful cluster of writings in Little Words is the passionate odes to earth. Poems like The Great Outdoors, Water and the Sea, Growth, Rain and Big Wild World are commendable pieces that transport you to thoughts of the universe and evoke in you a longing to connect with its essence. Sabatina contemplates the significance of water in our lives and how it shapes us as human beings. She describes rain as a companion and likens nature’s elements to facets of human existence. Blooming, as flowers do, is used as a metaphor to express the blossoming and withering of the human self, as it journeys through life. I find myself grateful for Sabatina’s observant eye, and reminded of prominent literary figure, Robert Frost whose work often alluded human experience to nature.

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The vivid imagery and poignant lines in the collection don’t stop there. “Sweet quietness, sweet doing nothing, sweet delight as perturbation vanishes, by a beach, by a hill, by my bedside candlelight,” Sabatina writes in one such moment, expressing the beguiling woo of Idling and doing nothing. A charming and concise piece, it celebrates the beauty of contentment, peace and the natural yearning for simple, organic living.

Many of the pieces in this collection also carry words – whose effects are by no means little – that distinctively explore love and its fleeting nature; not only romantic love as is often come across, but the delicate love of true friendship.

Butterfly, Katydid, Starfish, Hoopoe, Robin, a whimsical and poetic tribute to friendship, is one such prose that catches you by surprise with animalistic names for human characters. It tells an unpredictable story of friendship that would strike a chord with anyone who has ever craved the depth of human connection.

Little Words packs more gems in its final chapters, leaving a lasting impact on the reader. It effectively concludes many issues brought about at the start of the book. For instance, The Broken Mirror Shards in Chapter 9 alludes to The Broken Mirror in Chapter 2, by empowering self-love and acceptance where it previously centered on insecurities and shortcomings.

Similarly, Heading Towards the Sun stands tangentially to Growth and Happiness by accepting growing pains, a task that hitherto proved to be a struggle.

Overall, Sabatina’s Little Words is a treasure trove of great reads. It lands as a fantastic collection of works that is relatable, inspiring, and thought-provoking. The author’s masterful use of language celebrates quotidian elements of our world that often get ignored. You will find yourself lost in the subtle yet deep messages of each work, making it a truly unforgettable read.

About the reviewer

Patrick Nzabonimpa, also known as Tom Patrick Nzabonimpa, is a writer, poet and journalist from Kigali, Rwanda. He serves as the Country Coordinator of Rwandan chapter of Writers Space Africa (WSA-R), where he actively supports aspiring writers and poets, and promotes literary activities. Tom’s works have been published in numerous literary magazines and anthologies, including WSA magazine, Brittle Paper, Africa in Dialogue, and the Twaweza anthology, among others. He also enjoys reading, analyzing literature and sharing his thoughts and opinions on various literary works. When he’s not immersed in his creative projects, Tom can often be found savouring a cup of tea.