And After Many Days

Jowhor Ile. Crown/Duggan, $25 (256p) ISBN 978-1-101-90314-8
Set in southern Nigeria, Ile’s debut novel pits the personal against the political in a slow-burning family drama. The year is 1995: university students take to the streets to agitate for better funding; NEPA, the country’s electric utility, can’t keep the grid juiced; the military government hangs nine dissidents. Yet in the swirl of postcolonial struggle, the Utu family has built a stable life of bourgeois respectability in metropolitan Port Harcourt, while keeping close ties to their ancestral village of Ogibah. One day, 17-year-old Paul Utu disappears. The novel rewinds to Ajie’s childhood, eventually finishing in the present day. It is through precocious Ajie, the youngest sibling, that we learn the Utu family history, from their tribe’s origin story and grandfather’s Christianization through the horrors of the Biafran War and into the mid-’90s. As quick-tempered Ajie comes of age, the novel depicts the contradictions of his mother’s Christianity, his father’s indefatigable liberalism, and their family bonds—all of which, already stretched thin between the old world and the new, are further strained by Paul’s disappearance. Though he occasionally burdens young Ajie with adult concerns that seem implausibly heavy, Ile hits the emotional register of childhood experiences, like the all-or-nothing satisfaction of following older kids in climbing a tree, or the searing heat of school humiliations. Agent: Sarah Chalfant, Wylie Agency. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 12/21/2015
Release date: 02/16/2016
Compact Disc - 978-0-14-752665-6
Compact Disc - 978-0-14-752667-0
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