cover image The Middle Daughter

The Middle Daughter

Chika Unigwe. Dzanc, $26.95 (320p) ISBN 978-1-950539-46-8

A grieving woman is entrapped by an abusive man in the powerful latest from Unigwe (On Black Sisters Street), a PW contributor. Nani, 17, is rocked by two tragedies in quick succession: first, her older sister Udodi dies in a car accident while away at college in the U.S. Soon after, their father, Doda, also dies, leaving Nani to descend into a debilitating depression. Living with her widowed mother in their home city of Enugu, Nigeria, Nani is preyed upon by Ephraim, an impoverished “itinerant preacher” from nearby Obiagu, who rapes her before asking her to marry him. She discovers she’s pregnant, and fearing her mother would blame her for the rape, she accepts Ephraim’s proposal. Ephraim further manipulates Nani by isolating her in Obiagu, where she abandons her mother’s plans for her to study in the U.S. Unigwe stages the drama on a grand scale, alluding to ancient Greek tragedies with the chorus-like voice of Udodi’s ghost, who comments on Nani’s tribulations (“I can do nothing but watch as the unravelling begins, as the flowers that once flourished wither”). The rippling effect of grief on the family makes the story all the more wrenching. Unigwe’s textured imagery and rich, lyrical prose make this a welcome addition to Nigerian feminist literature. Agent: Kate Johnson, Wolf Literary Services. (Apr.)