By Prisca Sam-Duru
In spite of the level of civilisation and education, Africans claim to have attained, the habit of subjecting barren women to unprintable conditions seems something that’ll continue till eternity.
With that at the core of her moving narrative, ‘Dear Alaere’, Eriye Onagoruwa, an energy executive with a passion for women’s causes, mirrors the dilemma women without children find themselves in, in a dysfunctional society. Eriye’s tragic narrative is laced with intrigues and startling revelations about the goings-on in society.
The story does not end with the pathetic tale of barrenness, and the unfortunate fact that women are more in the league of the oppressors, it also exposes how Nigeria’s image has been severely battered by activities of depraved politicians, the cold war that exists in organisations and, the crazy side of Lagos.
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Written in the first-person narrative, the author lures readers on a fascinating trip into the world of womanhood, love, rivalry, betrayal, pain, sexual assaults and, life in the most anarchic city of Nigeria.
Set in Lagos, “Dear Alaere”, published this year by Paperworth Books, Lagos, is a modest contribution of Eriye towards attaining a saner society. The book being her first published novel indicates one bold voice that needs to be heard in the literary world.
From the outset, readers will feel the pain and plight of the protagonist in her relationship with people, as a woman without a child. She gets the most absurd birthday wishes even from relations who should be empathetic towards her condition, thereby exposing people’s level of insensitivity. Alaere battles over a decade of barrenness with the attendant spite from her nagging mother-in-law who is bent on seeing her son, Laja, take a second wife. Quite sad she does not live to witness her dream of holding her grandchild in her arms.
Overtaken by her whim to work in a more prestigious outfit, Alaere leaves Neuterone for Criole, a French multinational company here in Nigeria. From the first day she reports for duty, she notices that something isn’t right with the place and not long, her trepidations are confirmed.
Alaere is garrulous when it comes to sharing secrets with Laja, including lustful overtures from the lesbian, Binyelum but, her disgusting encounter with her MD, sees her deciding not to divulge the sad experience to her heartthrob. And there, lies the problem with most African women who keep silent in the face of severe sexual assault only to be violated the more. Thanks to God, Alaere, being a fearless woman, handles both the shameless Caucasian and Binyelum, appropriately.
The book exposes the general wroth in virtually all the sectors in Nigeria with particular emphasis on the health and power sectors. This brings to the fore, reasons foreigners in the country take their hosts for granted. The assassination of Cruella and the sudden release of the prime suspect, Criole’s expatriate staff, Pierre, tell a relatable story of a degraded country. Also, after narrating Jean-Luc’s dirty behaviour to her colleague, Aubery, surprisingly he replies thus; “Actually the French community back home at HQ know Jean-Luc as a dirty scumbag…” And wondering why such a person heads the Nigeria branch, Aubery continues; “…HQ sees Nigeria as a dumping ground for its bad eggs because of the level of lawlessness Nigeria is known for. The standard for governance and doing business are largely capricious”
The author also employs an element of sarcasm at different points. There’s a power outage at Criole and here is what Alaere puts down on her diary. “Today, there’s a power outage in Criole. The generators are not working. The irony of it all is not lost on me- a multinational company with a goal to light up the rural areas. Alas, darkness can only give birth to darkness”.
As tragic as ‘Dear Eriye’ is, readers, find Alaere’s frank diaries through which the author introduces an element of humour, very pleasant, more so, ‘they live happily ever after’.
What the book falls short of in title, it makes up with captivating colour and cover design as well as in the content and, writing technique which in itself is novel and unique. ‘Dear Alaere’, an engaging and compelling story spread across 225 pages organised under eighteen chapters, keeps readers captivated and at the same time, anxious to know what the next calamity will be. The author’s sensitivity helps her weave fragments of different stories, capturing important issues often neglected in society, while perfectly connecting the dots.
Her vivid description of intimate scenes between the protagonist and her hubby, leaves nothing to the imagination, evoking feelings similar to those erotic scenes in ‘Mills & Boon’.
The book makes quite a pleasurable read for all adults as they savour the vicissitudes of the innocent life of a decent and determined woman in an insane society.
Every woman would learn from Alaere’s resilience especially when her home transforms from a happy one to a cold war zone while also battling a completely dysfunctional workplace. Good a thing she finds solace in her diary which assumes life as a trusty companion.