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 A gracefully written if uneven first novel from Ghanaian author Darko describes the slow but steady slide of her heroine from innocence to forced prostitution. Mara, a woman from a small village in Ghana, falls into a bad, arranged marriage to Akobi--a man who is at best neglectful and at worse (most of the time) manipulative, unfaithful, brutish, and violent. Having known no other lover, however, Mara isn't even aware that her marriage is unusual. Then, when Akobi sells her most prized possessions, she becomes angry enough to leave him--but the ever-deceitful Akobi mollifies her and convinces her to support his dream of working in Europe. And Akobi does make it to Germany. Not only that but, to Mara's amazement, he sends for her. Mara's unfounded faith in Akobi is smashed once again, though, when she realizes he has brought her there to work as a prostitute to satisfy his own selfish, material desires. This perhaps too-short novel--at times feeling overly compressed--is framed by the current, wizened Mara, with events being retold as Mara understood them at the time. Her early naivetÇ borders on comic, always with tragic results; but, altogether, the story has a dark ring of truth--even when each new abuse of Mara's body and trust leaves the reader wanting to disbelieve that any woman could put up with so much. Eventually, the narrative begins to sink under the utter predictability of disaster. But as Mara gains worldliness and strength in the face of the many abuses of Akobi, there's a tension that develops--a hint of the revenge that this woman may be capable of. Despite a not entirely satisfactory end and inconsistencies throughout--in tone, in a mix of styles: a unique tale by turns revealing, stupefying, and bitterly comic.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-435-90990-8
Page count: 140pp
Publisher: Heinemann
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1995