On New Year’s Day, in preparation for the Reading Challenge, I scanned through a list of books scheduled to be published in 2016. And After Many Days, by Jowhor Ile, sounded like an interesting novel. I immediately put a hold at the library, ending up in position 4 for the 6 copies the library had ordered. On Valentine’s Day, I walked out of the Capitol Hill Library with a book no one had ever borrowed before.
One Monday evening in 1995, 17-year-old Paul Utu walked out of his family’s home in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, telling his younger brother, Ajie, that he was going to visit a friend. Paul didn’t return. That’s the first page of the novel.
And After Many Days does not, as I had assumed, continue into an investigation into Paul’s disappearance. Rather, it jumps back in time, and tells the story of the Utu family: bourgeois parents Bendic and Ma, and the three children, Paul, Bibi, and Ajie.
Bendic Utu is an attorney. The children all call him by his first name. Ma is a teacher. They both have ties to the student protests.
One of the reasons that I chose And After Many Days was that I thought, maybe, that a book about Nigeria, written by a Nigerian, could also fill the “culture you’re unfamiliar with” category. I seems that life in Port Harcourt isn’t all that different from my own life, however – more frequent power outages, more eba for lunch, and a more volatile police force, perhaps, but pretty much the same as life here in Seattle.
Eventually, we do learn what happened to Paul, that Monday evening in 1995. But After Many Days isn’t Paul’s story – it’s Ajie’s.
I enjoyed this novel a lot.
- A book that is published in 2016