By Prisca Sam-Duru
Issues revolving around widowhood, motherhood, and domestic violence which undermine womenfolk, like leeches, have regrettably become a part of the society. While individuals and advocacy groups are cutting their teeth daily in the quest for solutions, award-winning author of “One Little Mosquito”, and “A Hero’s Welcome”, which made the longlist of the Nigeria Prize For Literature 2019, Ndidi Chiazor-Enenmor, lends her support through the release of an astounding expose on the issues from an amazing novel perspective.
Titled “If They Tell The Story”, Chiazor-Enenmor’s debut novel was published in 2020 by Walnut Publishing Ltd, Lagos. The book, structured into three parts, thirty-nine chapters, and 299 pages, is a moving tale from an emerging master storyteller which will keep you from every other thing until the very last page is savoured.
The novel is set partly in rural Eastern Nigeria and urban Lagos. It exposes how a people’s tradition travels with them to the cities and lives with them infinitely; speaking expressly, however, that it takes only the bold and brainy to get liberated from those traditions that are inimical to growth. Also to a large extent, the work of fiction examines how most women are still subjected to demeaning status in society, in spite of modernisation.
Part one is titled ‘Dreams’, part two is ‘Reality’ while the third part is ‘Illusions’. ‘Dreams’ encapsulates the early stage of life of the protagonist whose desire is to be educated and then relocate overseas after marrying a promising young man, Chima. That singular dream lures her into a blood oath with Chima before he departs for Europe to become an acclaimed international footballer. The narrative on Chima sounds a stern warning to youth who believe that better life can only be achieved by travelling out of the country. Things however go awry and Chima’s dream hits the rock unknown to Azuka who waits endlessly to hear from him.
Pressures from her selfish and overbearing mother whose only desire is to have grandchildren, coupled with the desire to live a life above poverty, force Azuka to jettison the idea of waiting any longer for Chima. She refuses to remember that all that glitters is not gold, and goes ahead and marries a wealthy businessman, Nduka. The rest of her tale is an eye-opener to young girls who get carried away by the razzmatazz of life.
It’s important to note that even from a tender age, Azuka begins to fight for her soul having lost her father, Obiozo, early in life. She is violated as a young child and unfortunately, the ravaging twin-monsters is known as child abuse and domestic violence pursue her to her matrimonial home. Her lot becomes sexual abuse and battering by her own husband. To get unshackled from the choking grip of imminent destruction and from an unjust society that encourages women to find their worth only in marriage and motherhood, she must take the bull by the horn. And so, to achieve the feat, Azuka is left with the option of putting two important people; her mother Unoaku and Nduka her husband, behind her or pay the ultimate prize of losing her soul.
It’s always advisable to leave to live’ while the abused still can. Sadly, Azuka’s first attempt to heed that advice hits the brick in form of her domineering and selfish mother. Her second attempt to escape is further thwarted by Taiye the fraudulent house agent and that becomes the last straw that broke Carmel’s back. She goes berserk and decides on the only available option- to end it all.
Told in an easy to comprehend diction, the engaging novel lures readers into an action-packed journey detailing Azuka’s tumultuous world. The author’s style of paying attention to every descriptive detail is quite commendable. Her craftsmanship, evident in her ability to weave words into compelling sentences creates a visual narrative, hence the book’s un-put-down-able nature.
With an apt title on an aesthetically designed cover page, Azuka’s dilemma could be felt by merely beholding the cover design before flipping through to read.
“If They Tell The Story” is embedded with life’s lessons and is a must-read for everyone except children. It would actually have been more desirable if children could also read as it would have served as a guide to a safer future. The book teaches how not to be entangled with certain acts such as blood covenant while ruled by lust and naivety. It also guides against getting carried away by riches or making opulence a yardstick for measuring a suitable suitor.