“And After Many Days” by Jowhor Ile (2016)
Genre: Fiction, Adult, Cultural
Page Length: 256 pages (hardcover edition)
During the rainy season of 1995, in the bustling town of Port Harcourt, Nigeria, one family’s life is disrupted by the sudden disappearance of seventeen-year-old Paul Utu, beloved brother and son. As they grapple with the sudden loss of their darling boy, they embark on a painful and moving journey of immense power which changes their lives forever and shatters the fragile ecosystem of their once ordered family. Ajie, the youngest sibling, is burdened with the guilt of having seen Paul last and convinced that his vanished brother was betrayed long ago. But his search for the truth uncovers hidden family secrets and reawakens old, long forgotten ghosts as rumours of police brutality, oil shortages, and frenzied student protests serve as a backdrop to his pursuit.
In a tale that moves seamlessly back and forth through time, Ajie relives a trip to the family’s ancestral village where, together, he and his family listen to the myths of how their people settled there, while the villagers argue over the mysterious Company, who found oil on their land and will do anything to guarantee support. As the story builds towards its stunning conclusion, it becomes clear that only once past and present come to a crossroads will Ajie and his family finally find the answers they have been searching for.
And After Many Days introduces Ile’s spellbinding ability to tightly weave together personal and political loss until, inevitably, the two threads become nearly indistinguishable. It is a masterful story of childhood, of the delicate, complex balance between the powerful and the powerless, and a searing portrait of a community as the old order gives way to the new. (description from Goodreads)
In And After Many Days the story surrounds the event of a boy’s disappearance and how it changes a family’s dynamic. Soon after Paul’s disappearance the family starts to fall apart and readers are instantly transported to the family’s past. Through these series of flashbacks the reader gets to know each family member intimately and are witness to their relationship.
Ajie, the youngest sibling, is the narrator of our tale. We view his family from his very eyes and how significant events throughout his life affect him. Paul is his older brother who is the shining star of all three siblings, Bibi is his older sister that constantly nitpicks at him, and Ajie is stuck as the “kid brother”. His mother and father are a bit stern, but only because they want the best for them. Through this story we learn how strong a family’s bond can be.
Among Ajie’s family background, Ile paints a vivid picture of what of the scenery and life was like in Nigeria at that time. It pulls reader into a new place, but also a different era that had many struggles and was politically charged. The narrative is slow-moving and the plot is mostly character-driven. While the historical events are a part of the story, the plot focuses on the people rather than the action.
Overall, this book failed to grab my attention many times while reading it. While I was enraptured with the first part of the book, but its slow pace made me lost interest later on in the plot. I also would have seen the perspectives from the other family members rather than just Ajie. I did, however, appreciate the way the Ile weaves together one family’s story and it also taught me some new aspects of Nigerian culture.
FTC Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging For Books in exchange for a fair and honest review.