cover image The Son of the House

The Son of the House

Cheluchi Onyemelukwe-Onuobia. Dundurn, $18.99 trade paper (304p) ISBN 978-1-4597-4708-1

Onyemelukwe-Onuobia's striking debut tackles gender inequality, abuse, and classism in a story of friendship and resilience set in Nigeria. Nwabulu, orphaned at eight, is sent by her wicked stepmother to work as a housemaid, first at 10 and then again at 12, in Enugu. At 16, she falls in love with Urenna, the only son of a wealthy family. Their relationship ends after Urenna gets Nwabulu pregnant and denies ever knowing her. Nwabulu is then sent home by her employers to "the red dusty earth of [her] village," where she is forced to marry Nathan, whose grieving mother wants a grandchild to carry on the family name, and who ends up taking the child from Nwabulu. The narrative also follows a teacher named Julie, who tricks her married lover into leaving his wife for her by pretending to be pregnant. Thirty years later, an unlikely friendship blooms between Julie and Nwabulu, but it's only when both women are abducted by kidnappers that they discover that they have a deeper bond. Onyemelukwe-Onuobia's intimate study of the issues facing contemporary Nigeria resonates, and her masterly storytelling makes this consistently entertaining. The result is as moving as it is thought-provoking. (June)