Oyebanji Ayodele has done one strange thing in this review; he has upturned the literary apostrophe in this book. He has given life to Jupiter, an imaginary addressee of Lola's diary, and made it respond to the many letters addressed to it by Lola, the book's main character. If you were the Jupiter, how will your response be? Will it be like Ayodele's? In this review, Oyebanji Ayodele has acted the Jupiter and has spoken back to Lola out of her diary. Strange? There are many strange issues raised in this review. Read and let's discuss in the comment box how strange you've found some of the matters written about.
That you have made me a part of your story, perhaps as an addressee has made the strings that tie me to the ebb and flow of your life become more noticeable. What a mangled twists your life is on this existential plane. Anyway, I shed some tears; I perspired and smiled too.
Listen Lola; what I think you need now is my response to your epistolary journey even as you wait for another kick-off shot now that your life picks a novel baton…and that, I've just done.
Sorry, that was my response to Lola, a friend who keeps me posted on the happenings that have led her back to the warm-up tracks as she prepares to begin a new life.
Here is a novel that delves into the world of Lola Ogunwole, a fastidious, precocious, funny and eagle-eyed girl who cannot but apprise Jupiter, an imaginary inhabitant of her diary, of everything life offers her.
Lola alongside her brother, Adebola, is cached under the roof of a foster home after their mother abandons them. In a bid to prevent the duo of Lola and Adebola from being lost like a thread-less bodkin in a desert, their father opts for reunion. Their exodus to Nigeria, their dad's homeland, with everything that surrounds it, most especially as they are related to the life of the solitary narrator (Lola), culminates in Sade Adeniran's Imagine This.
Presented in the prolixity-prone epistolary mode, Imagine This terminates with an end that is a beginning. Confusing? Being a Jupiter will shed more light.
Imagine Lola … Imagine Sade.
Lola is an astounding and outstanding character. Even when her voice is saturated with the throes of childhood, the reader cannot but marvel at her curiosity and precocity. I like her literal interpretation of "leg-opening" (immoral consenting-sex). You will like it too;
"It was mean of him to expel her just because she didn't keep her legs closed. Maybe if I kept my legs open I'd also get expelled and Daddy would have to find me another school for me to go in Lagos" (pg. 54)
Her being enigmatic and tenacious leads me into examining her maker, Sade Adeniran, who probably shares some characteristics with Lola. Sade's struggle with the character of Lola is overt only in the sight of an observant reader. Despite the fact that Sade drains her voice of everything mature in the incipient portrait of Lola, she still fails to cover up completely. Lola's love for Arts, Literature, especially buttresses this. Sade writes and Lola does too. Imagine that! Lola also speaks Sade's tokunbo Yoruba patois.
However, she identifies with every sliver of Lola's life. Her allusive power fortifies her creativity as she fleshes out Lola as a character. What a powerful voice she breeds in Lola!
She also tries to portray the believability of an increase in responsibility and understanding at Lola's attainment of adulthood. Lola's initial derision for amour suddenly disappears; as "Dear Jupiter" at some point becomes "D J". Whatever it is; both creator and creature are inseparable.
The book is fraught with issues an African reader would easily identify with, considering the fact that the blood that paces the veins and arteries of the narrative are akin to that which flows in his. My attentive sight didn't fail to recognize the uncomplimentary air that lingers around child-upbringing when the parties saddled with the responsibility are divided. If guilt were a plaque, I'll present it to the horrible circumstance that breaks up the Ogunwole's family. That brings up another issue: the African family system.
The extended family system in Africa doesn't restrain itself from putting its old, ugly dentition on exhibition. It isn't smiling! It weeps inconsolably considering the way its once-adored reputation keeps dwindling. The series of trivialities in Ogunwole's extended family in Idogun, which always morphs into sheer wickedness, affirms this.
Once was the communal norm of the Africans an enviable thing that it was considered reasonable to hand every child over to the society for moral nurturing. It takes a village to raise a child is what we say. Idogun almost ruins Lola psychologically and academically. Spirituality is another picture that faces the reader. Like a bat, the book portrays Africans as neither rodents nor aves – neither orthodox nor traditional religion is strictly adhered to. Both are what the Idogun based characters follow. Sheer religious infidelity!
In addition, everything that surrounds the entity christened Nigeria, the coups and counter-coups especially, engages the reader's head. It dangles every now and then like a scare-crow in the middle of a raging whirlwind. Imagine this: in a book that spans almost ten years, there is no singular reference to the celebration of anything Nigerian. That's awful and an indirect appease to the Western thirst for black-Africa.
Spread across the pages of the novel is a story told in a simple and eclectic diction which embraces both African and Yoruba proverbs; a characterization borne and named out of the personal views of the narrator. The use of mental images is also effective. Here is my favourite:
"I went into the bushes to do a number two… I thought I had finished, but I could still feel something there so I used some leaves to wipe my bottom and there it was – a giant worm sticking out of my bottom! I screamed and started running with the worm dangling behind me… I stood there crying with my pants down, dress up and worm sticking out." (pg. 50)
As mono-sided (and maybe selfish) as the narration is, the reader cannot but marvel at the way Sade manages her plot and characters. Thematically, the picture of Nigeria and Africa are seen in the "horriblest" (using Lola's word) condition. The author splatters derision on the pages of the novel owing to the stench the African culture ignorantly produces. However; that is not to say everything African or relating to the African culture is repulsive.
Imagine the vivid image of Africans as complacent folks who value social functions more than any other thing. What a pathetic situation for Africans! I wish Lola (or Sade) had toned this cultural criticism down. Read this and you will shake your head (at least):
"If someone dies every week or so for the next five years then I'll never go hungry again…" (pg. 39)
Even if hunger rages with gusto, the demise of some person tackles it. That's what the above means to me!
"The time has come for me to start my life" (pg. 266)
I opine that Sade has more to narrate but has decided to play within the forte of a character's proverb:
"If hunger forces a farmer to eat both his yam tubers and his seed yams, the years to come will have no yams to eat and none to plant" (pg. 47)
As Sade plans on writing a sequel, I see her leaving the reader with more to imagine. But I consider the sequel a test on Sade's ability to manage the conflict she has already built up in this prequel. To that; will she really measure up? Well, she's written Imagine This, we should await Imagine That for an answer to such question.