Home / Book reviews / ‘NOWHERE’ ON THE OTHER HAND

Towards the end of chapter one and two I was like wow, he knows how to connect a story. He must be good at knitting fine cardigans or have an idea on knitting cardigans. He just knows how to connect a story and the words are knowledgeable, clear and vivid enough, but then I was reading chapter three and I decided I was reading comedy and then doubts came seeping in.

The protagonist was such a Nye-JIRRYAN that I was staring down at Africa; I could not help but wonder where exactly is Africa, because everyone seems these days to be going to or doing something in Africa, when there is North Africa, West Africa, East Africa and Southern Africa, but everyone is going nowhere in Africa. Africa just keeps popping up. For instance: ‘I can’t cry for Andrew. I keep thinking about that day in Africa. On the beach.’ Besides, I could not help but feel that Little Bee might not be Nigerian at all. She is Ibo, living between the east and south, where there is an ‘oil war’ but there seems to be volcanos and this Nye-jirrya is made up of just forests, villages, on the sides of mountains and it has hot jungles that smell of moss and monkey excrement and Little Bee chops down trees to build towers. I was bewildered, because I was not reading a historical fiction novel and it was not even fantasy, because all these were going on in 2007.

This was a lovely book, but I just could not get past Africa. I do not understand why people can say the Middle East, which is not a continent and even go farther to say the war in Iran, or Iraq, or Israel, but they are too lazy to be specific about Africa. I mean Danielle Steele can decide her protagonist went to Africa to feed the starving, diseased children and leave the information at a sentence and carry on with the emotional rollercoaster, but ‘The other hand’ goes past a flippant I went to Africa and decides that Africa is a country. I understand that there was some mention of Ibeno beach in Nigeria, but I could not help but feel ‘bewildered’ that there was nothing Nigerian about this. It was too much like the Hollywood movies that usually shoot scenes of Africa to look like the Congo, because Africa is one place and not several places.

I think the problem is generalization. It is okay to be specific about ‘Tuscany’ or ‘Belize’, or Ibiza or the Canaries, when there are thirty-six states in Nigeria and to be fair following the way of the compass they could have been like there is war in the south-eastern part of Nigeria, but no ‘some parts of Nigeria’. I understand that most of these places have established tourist veteranishness, but the least anyone writing about a place could do is to give it some respect. I understand that a curious tourist would at least look up the place he or she was going to and this person took an aeroplane to one of the Nigerian airports. This person did not fly in a jet and just land in the jungle with the intention of visiting King kong and there would at least have been Hotels or guest houses in the midst of these jungles, except they decided to erect a tent in the jungle to fix up their marital issues.

Then I was staring at page 131 and I was like wow, ‘My husband died. We are going to have a funeral. It’s a kind of ceremony. It is what we do in this country.’ And I was like ‘bewildered’. What did Mrs O’Rourke think they were doing with their dead bodies in Nigeria, eating them? Or flinging them to the jungle to rot and the volcanoes to erupt in 2007? But thank God Little Bee knows what they do in ‘this country’ so the problem is probably the church thing. There probably aren’t any churches in jungles.

I am just wondering when Africa will stop being a country. Going to ‘Africa’ is going ‘nowhere’ because you cannot go to Africa, but somewhere in Africa and that somewhere has a name and the African peoples have a lot of diversity. It might as well be the most diverse continent. I cannot help but assume that people going to Africa are aliens that say ‘we are going to earth.’ As a Nigerian reading this book, I am aware this book addresses important issues, but the way this was dished out towards the beginning was pure ‘antipathy’ regarding Africa and all its beliefs, peoples, places and actual pain. It felt ‘rassist’. If I was not a Nigerian, even if I was only just ‘African’ and not Nigerian I will think Nigeria was made up of ravaging dog eating dogs that could not wait to eat humans and crabs that could not wait to eat humans and angry monkeys screaming under the moon and hornbills cracking seeds in trees above people’s heads and thorny jungles and mountainous volcanoes with people out for each other’s blood. This is equal to hell staring into the face of real savagery – A HORROR. I can only assume from what Lawrence said: ‘Oh please. This is Europe. We’re a little more house trained over here.’ That is why every African is running to Europe.

In addition, the story was very disturbing what happened to Nkiruka. I have no words for this. Nevertheless, war is war and it should be addressed as such. Africans are individuals just like Europeans and just because ‘there was trouble in Africa, of course there was’ does not mean the whole corner and crevice of Africa is troubled. Everyone – even every country has its troubles, yet despite the past wars in Europe does not make me think ‘there was trouble in Europe, of course there was.’ I was not surprised though after the encounter that instead of addressing the problem Sarah set up direct debits from her bank account to a couple of African charities, instead of directly addressing the ‘oil war’ problem in Nigeria as a journalist, but it probably has something to do with the terrible choice she made back in Africa.

Across the back of the book, it says: Their lives collide one fateful day, and one of them has to make a terrible choice. Two years later, they meet again – the story starts there… I cannot help but wonder about what story exactly this is and I kept looking for the magic as the story unfolded, but all I saw was ‘Africa’ and its lack of identity and Africans trying to forget they were Africans and attempting to be British. I could not help but feel that the story was about Andrew and Sarah’s relationship and how it could have worked out if not for Africa. I could assume that Sarah’s sacrifice was a huge symbolism to her life and career as a whole and things she could and could not do. Regardless, I really loved batman and the symbolism about identity and then towards the end, where Charlie took off his suit. I can only assume reading through it and skimming through the ones I could not bear to read that the volcanoes were the best explanation mothers give their children if they do not want to tell them there is war and mountains are the obstacles we have to face and scale and each one of us is our own country. Therefore, my country is probably myself as an individual – that makes billions of countries in Africa – maybe even on earth, yet Africa is still a country. Why is that?

In conclusion, I could see a few things that ‘bewildered’ me was ‘enlightened’ upon reading through and that just goes to tell you why you must finish things before you conclude and I had in my hands, on the other hand instead of one cardigan, two nicely knitted cardigans that did not quite fit. An eloquent read filled with compelling untruths.

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