Francesca Ekwuyasi | Nigeria
Call me superficial, but both the title and the cover of this book are so intriguing and eye-catching, I know for a fact I would have picked this up from a bookstore stack, had this book not been recommended to me by a bookstagrammer. The Ogbanje concept, which I first read about in Stay With Me, was so unique that I had to add this to my African lit collection.
This book centers around the lives of Kambirinachi—an Ogbanje, characterized as a spirit that is repeatedly born and dies causing grief to a family—and her twin daughters, Taiye and Kehinde. Their stories are told in three narratives from their childhoods to adulthood, where we learn that Kambirinachi’s mental struggle with her “spirit family” was a constant pull, while her daughters endure a heartbreaking situation that estranges them from one another for many years.
I’m generally skeptical of books that include magical realism because I’ve found some to be…out there, but Ekwuyasi weaves it into the narrative with such grace and only when necessary, that I enjoyed it because it was so seamless. The twins have a strong love for each other, but the event that rips them apart takes many years of avoidance and being on their own individual paths, before it can be addressed.
Yet my favorite aspects were on Kambirinachi, who is trying to live a mortal life knowing that her spirit entity is always calling her. Her mother and even her girls sense that she’s a bit strange at times, but can’t attribute the source of it. The storytelling takes readers from Lagos to Halifax to France, following these characters as they try to create their lives, with a cast of secondary characters who form their experiences. It’s a beautiful story, with sophisticated writing that honors some of the stories of Nigerian culture.
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