This novel explores the topic of two sisters in modern-day Nigeria as they grow up in their village. It is a coming-of-age story but also a book about being able to confront your demons and express your hardships to others so they can help carry the weight of your burdens. It is the confessions shared among the women in the family that keep them strong.
Morayo opens the first chapter by recalling the day her younger sibling, Eniayo was born. It is a memorable event because her sister is an albino—which according to superstitious beliefs, is bad luck. Despite Eniayo’s “misfortune”, she is able to grow up alongside her older sister without too much tribulation—yet there is an unspoken secret between the two of them, which Morayo intends to keep, for the sake of Eniayo’s innocence.
The painful truth has to do with their cousin Bros T, who comes to stay at their house to attend school. At first he seems friendly and playful with the girls but then he starts watching Morayo as if she were a tempting piece of fruit. It is on a day when their parents are out that Bros T decides to make his move and force himself upon her. Only after being sexually abused repeatedly for weeks, does Morayo speak to her parents about it.
She soon finds out that she is not the only woman in the family who has been taken advantage of. Once Aunt Morenike explains to Morayo that her son was the result of rape, the connection between niece and aunt strengthens.
There are quotes or sayings that start off each chapter, which I thought was a great way to express the culture of the people. It is also clear that story telling is a huge theme in the novel when we get a taste of it through Morayo’s father (recounting tales that have morals) and Aunt Morenike (revealing what happened to her when she was Morayo’s age).
It is through the admittance of what happened to her that helps Morayo try to cope and heal as she gets older. Her first love, Kachi even finds a way back into her heart later on. We see the sisterly love between Morayo and Eniayo—how Morayo would give up anything or sacrifice herself to keep her sister safe, no matter at what cost.
This book highlights the injustices that women go through at the hands of powerful or prosperous men. At the same time, it shows how women can be stronger when coming together and how it is necessary to declare any wrongdoings that befall them. The course of history can be changed because of it and perhaps eventually help the less fortunate.
First, I will start off by saying that it reminds me of Dancing Lessons by Olive Senior, in so far that it recalls a woman’s hardships in her small native town (even though Senior’s novel is set in Jamaica instead of Africa). However, I have to admit that although there are stories out there of women bonding over secrets that have to do with sexual abuse, I haven’t really read one yet. Lisa See’s Shanghai Girls had a bit of that but it did not focus on the issue. Of course, in Kilanko’s book, the rape is committed by someone in the family—not by a stranger during times of war.
This is Kilanko’s first novel and I look forward to reading anything else she might write. Any thoughts about this debut? Give me a shout and then prepare to join me next month when I review Matadora by Elizabeth Ruth.