Sacred River

Syl Cheney-Coker. Ohio Univ., $29.95 (444p) ISBN 978-0-8214-2056-0
This innovative epic by Sierra Leone native Cheney-Coker (The Last Harmattan of Alusine Dunbar) is firmly set in West Africa and features magical realism grounded in native myth. In the fictional capital city of Malagueta, Tankor Satani, a 65-year-old ex-dogcatcher, is inspired to seize power by his potent dreams of Haitian independence leader Henri Christophe. The extravagant, violent, and politically cagey Satani constructs a hilltop mansion he dubs Xanadu to insulate himself from Malagueta’s poverty and civil unrest. The pervasive influence of West African legends emerges in Satani’s sorcerer-eunuchs, his bizarre dreams, and his theft of a mermaid’s golden comb, which magically ensure his good fortune. This sprawling story describes Satani’s eventual death, when his “magic plane” crashes into the sea and the mermaid, in the guise of a barracuda, devours him; it also tells of his successor, General Dan Dogg, who, like Satani, enjoys an opulent lifestyle underwritten by the wealth generated by the local diamond industry. The central figure of the latter part of the book is 16-year-old Yeama Iskander, who represents a new generation seeking to effect social change as a brutal insurrection in a neighboring country spills across the border and Malagueta is threatened with destruction. Despite the perils facing the city, Yeama refuses to abandon her homeland for the security of Senegal. Cheney-Coker’s sweeping tale climaxes with the “sacred river,” the spiritual center of the story, offering Yeama its healing and rejuvenating powers. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 01/13/2014
Release date: 12/01/2013
Genre: Fiction
Open Ebook - 445 pages - 978-0-8214-4465-8
Paperback - 456 pages - 978-0-8214-2137-6
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