This is a moving book and certainly worth reading, but I had such high hopes after the first few chapters and ended up feeling a little disappointed that the amazingness didn’t quite carry through to the end.
This is a coming of age story of a Nigerian girl, Ijeoma, set in Nigeria in the late 1960s. Ijeoma’s world is disrupted when her beloved father is killed in a civil war (the Biafran War) and her mother sends her away to live with a teacher’s family while she prepares a new home in a safer village. Ijeoma ends up falling in love with another girl the family takes in. Obviously, it’s an understatement to say that gay relationships are frowned upon (and even currently illegal). Not only that, but Ijeoma is an Igbo Christian and Amina is a Hausa Muslim. When their relationship is exposed, they are separated and Ijeoma is sent back to her mother who does her best to rid her daughter of the devil using Bible lessons and prayer. This was, I thought, the strongest part of the novel. Ijeoma is such an appealing character – she quick and bright, wants to make her mother happy, but always has a fierce need to be true to herself. Her mother’s “logic” is so off the wall and their banter and Ijeoma’s questioning of her mother’s faith is fresh and real.
The structure of the novel is interesting. Some of the most important plot points are foreshadowed, skipped over, and then relayed in a memory. For example, there’s a great suspense and quiet dread hanging over Ijeoma and Amina’s love scenes because the reader knows at any second they’re going to be discovered and there will be hell to pay.
The second half of the book was a little slow for me and I didn’t love how some of what would have been major turning points in Ijeoma’s life were just mentioned briefly in an epilogue. However, it ends on a positive and hopeful note, which I appreciated, and the writing is flawless.