Coming across And After Many Days by Johwor Ile was a seemingly eerie occurrence every time I entered a bookstore. It always seemed to call to me, until I finally picked it up from Patabah Books for 2000 Naira In January 2019. Fast forward to September, I am smack in the middle of a reading rut, picking and leaving books unfinished. Then, I pick this book and everything changes.
The debut novel from this author, And After Many Days, begins with the disappearance of Paul Utu, the 17-year old son and brother of the Utus, a middle-class family living in Port Harcourt. This creates metaphorical darkness in their home at a time where literal darkness takes hold of the nation. The following chapters tell a story of hope, as this family tries to find their son.
This story progresses from the home of the Utus to a broader story filled with loss, doubt, power play and society going through an unprecedented change.
The beginning pages are emotion-evoking. We go through having to deal with the loss of Paul and seeing how his family had to handle it, from the context of a Nigerian, seemed all too familiar.
The Utus are a respected, well-to-do family. When Paul disappears, they are thrust into a maze trying to find him. Ajie, the last child, brings his perspective in this story. He bears the brunt of the ghosts of brothers past because he was the last person to see Paul before he disappeared. His relationship with and the personality of Paul are exposed through his eyes. I enjoyed Ajie’s view initially, because of its brazenness and detail, but as time progressed, it dimmed.
Their parents are strong characters are good examples of what love and family in a relatively unconventional Nigerian setting could be. The children call their dad Bendic, as opposed to the traditional way of addressing one’s father, due to a habit Paul formed as a child.
Bibi Utu, the only daughter is a burst of strength and very reminiscent of her mother’s character that, in my opinion, they can easily be one person.
The story moves from the bustling city of Port Harcourt to their tranquil hometown, Ogibah. The narrative of injustice, bad governance and a looming war take centre stage. These are indicative of present-day Nigeria, which gives this story a seemingly timeless feel making makes me wonder if that was what Johwor Ile had in mind.
The pace of the storytelling in And After Many Days was great, allowing the characters to unfold beautifully. However, the transition from past to present, which occurred frequently, was confusing at times. The writing was beautifully simple, with easily understandable vocabulary.
Characters in this reminded me of those in Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and the storytelling, In Dependence by Shade Ladipo Manyika. Both are good books I highly recommend.
When misfortune befalls you, people secretly blame you. Ajie noticed this.
People can’t help it. They do it so they can believe it won’t happen to them.
They haven’t done whatever it is you have done to deserve such suffering.
And After Many Days By Johwor Ile was such an emotional read that’ll have you rooting for the characters. The pangs of hope, disappointment and truth in this debut have me waiting to see what the author has up his sleeves in the coming years. It was such a good read for me and will be remembered as the book that kicked off the process of overcoming my great reading slump of 2019.
What was the last good book you read? What are you currently reading? Will you add this to your reading list?