By now, you should know I delight much in the short story genre, more so when it is a collection or an anthology. I already said that many times. Here and here are just few of the times. It is therefore with a certain glee that I approach every short story. So, when the writer fails, I scream, frown and sulk loudly. When a book is good, you say it. When it is otherwise, don’t cower and make many ruin money on boring sentences limping on gummed papers called a book. Children are suffering in South Sudan and you are there buying hopeless books. This reviewer will always say it the way it is. Good stories fly over, around and everywhere, begging for readership every day on the internet. And free too. So why buy a book just for the spending? Molara Wood’s Indigo is a reader’s pleasure. Not just for the spending. This reader tells you so. Truth and simple. Don’t just tut-tut. Read a copy to prove me wrong. However mixed my feelings are towards a number of pieces in this collection, some are total delights. To the few spoiler-stories, that isn’t surprising, going by the number of stories in the collection. Seventeen short stories. Too many if you ask me. Seventeen pieces mixed with pleasure and the lows.
Indigo is angry, subtly shrill and stinging. Many of its characters are interesting stock victims of familiar crises: polygamy, barrenness, social insecurities and female objectification, just to mention a few. My familiarity with these crises is deep. If your married sister has never returned home crying, sobbing through catarrh and cursing marriage, you won’t know Idera in “Indigo”. Forget it. My familiarity with those crises is deep. Indigo groans loudly of women secretly licking sores, gaining confidence, standing tall though bruised, wincing but still biting. These women’s battles are many. They confront the many pains punctuating the bravery of womanhood. Of intense pity is how many of them fight to making lives the ways they want them. In these fights, some are subtle and others ridicule cheap devilish tradition. These women want better and they thus work harder. With immense strains, some succeeded and others only become victims in foolishness. In this foolishness, you might find Maryam, Emily, Aunty Mina and Aramide’s mother. But this silliness is not total. It is not willed. In murky circumstances, they only desire to make their worlds better. And indeed, no human deserves lesser.
Indigo is angry, subtly shrill and stinging. Many of its characters are interesting stock victims of familiar crises:
“ ‘Actually the features are not quite set yet…It may be too early to tell who the baby resembles.’ The last few words dropped haltingly from her mouth, as she became aware of the frozen stares in her direction. Several women raised their eyebrows.
‘Excuse me, but what do you know?’ The aunt planted one hand on her hip and jutted out her chin at Idera
‘I am sorry?’
‘I asked you a question: what do you know about babies? How many have you pushed out?...
Bola shifted, adjusting the baby’s head in the crook of her elbow as she did so. ‘Aunty please…’
‘No!’ The aunt thrust a hand at Bola, whose mouth clammed shut. ‘Let me deal with this, this so-called woman’. She poked the thumb of the other hand at Idera and enquired of her niece, ‘Abi, is this not the one that came from London and thinks she’s European? The empty husk you told me about, parched as a fallen leaf in Harmattan?’ ” (pg. 14: Indigo)
“…A huge sum. As collateral, she left her daughter behind to serve as bonded labour.
‘I did it for you, my dear son. To pay for your primary and secondary education. To make you what you are today – the first educated man of your generation in this place. I planned to…reclaim my daughter within two years, but I could never get the money. And twenty years passed…’ ” (pg. 84: Girl on the Wall)
This book isn’t just another feministic bundle adoring women, making them angels, faultless and superiors of humankind. In this book, the women have their weaknesses and they are not hidden. Indigo makes the cheap a rarity of some sort. This is how you know when the stereotypical is handled well. No issues in this collection are far drawn.
“Julie would never have come to Mother’s funeral. Not after the March day in 1989 when Mother came home with Mr Filanda, who dragged my fifteen-year-old sister into the back of his car as his driver started the engine. Filanda’s moniker was an alias. He was a known trafficker of girls to Italy. Julie was a trainee ashewo anyway, Mother sneered after the vehicle, let her go and see how professional Nigerian prostitutes do it in Europe…” (pg. 91: In the Time of Job)
It is almost clichéd anyway; we all know the grimes society rub on women. However, it becomes shared evil if one sees it stereotypical in the vicious ways society and misplaced chauvinism are slaving them. In this instance, ‘them’ is a devilish distant pronoun. I would prefer ‘us’ instead. When you slave a woman, some other world crumbles along with her. In Indigo, nothing of the women’s sufferings is trite. Though Aunty Mina’s immigration issue may sound over told, it is a trajectory of other bigger problems: Ade’s trauma and Angela’s family. Indigo’s women are fragile, hunted, but resilient characters. Sariatu refuses to be Gani’s stopgap; Iriola won’t foolishly follow Kelemo downhill; Idera trashes around for redemption; Emily won’t go down without an effort; and Falode confronts her major calamity. These women won’t just give up. These women are all around us. We know them. Idera might be your sister. Falode could be your next door neighbor. And Sariatu a representation of all slowly dying subservient women. In Africa, women suffer, partly to ignorance, majorly to inhumane traditions. In this case, I would not see Africa as a continent, but a tradition and mentality inhumane to women. Darn traditions! This book portrays several domesticated evils.
Indigo’s women are fragile, hunted, but resilient characters.
Sariatu refuses to be Gani’s stopgap:
“I cried as I rushed to stop the fight… But my hands disobeyed my voice when I reached them. I held our husband so that Clara could beat him all the more. I don’t know where I found the strength.” (pg. 30-31: Gani’s Fall)
Indigo’s women are fragile, hunted, but resilient characters.
Falode confronts her major calamity:
“ ‘Mother smiled at Alhaja. ‘Kerosene is cocaine, as my sister here is fond of saying. Husbands are dearer than eyes’ ” (pg. 150: The Scarcity of Common Goods)
With a few flash pieces interspersing the stories and offering brief exciting pauses in the reading, you can’t be bored. Moreover, the link between “Free Rice”, a flash story, and “The Scarcity of Common Goods”, a short story, provides a creative continuum. It is more like creating an interlude in a same story for sterling effect. What this achieves is a complex flux of different emotions in just a story. You will like it. As your emotion is suddenly clipped off in the brief but engaging “Free Rice”, “The Scarcity of Common Goods” gets it all going again. It is saddening however when you consider that same thing could have been done with flash fictions like “A Small Miracle” and “The Girl on the Wall”. Engaging notwithstanding as they are, I see them as frills just blowing in the air.
When they are many stories in a collection; some stories overfeed on shared themes and go whining without adding anything new. “The Last Bus Stop” explores the same immigration subject already touched by stories like “In Name Only”, “In the Time of Job”, and “Leaving Oxford Street”. For me, “The Last Bus Stops” only swells the count.
Molara Wood’s Indigo is a reader’s pleasure. Not just for the spending. This reader tells you so.
Ok, I said that before. ;-)
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Critical Literature Review closes for the year with this post. Your readership on this blog has been massive. Google Traffic tracker tells us so. And we are humbled and grateful. As we resume blogging in the 3rd week of January 2014, we look forward to bringing more diversities to the blog. In this regard, we kindly ask you recommend books for us (all genres), contact us (firstname.lastname@example.org), send them if you can and we will review them. Happy New Year. Keep reading! It’s really been fun all the way!