An American woman tells the story of living, loving, working, and raising children in Africa for more than 20 years in this memoir.
Onyemelukwe (Love on the Road 2013, 2013) writes about the spell that the country of Nigeria cast on her, and of the joys and travails of her life among its people, in a book that features “sights, sounds, and smells unlike any I would ever see in the United States.” As an early Peace Corps volunteer, she arrived in Lagos in 1962. She was 21 years old, a teacher of German, and possessed a voracious appetite for experience. Nigeria, meanwhile, had only declared its independence from Britain two years before. In short order, the author met the man she would marry; later, she bore him the first of three children (much to the delight of those in his home village of Nanka) and grew increasingly comfortable among the country’s upper crust. She hired a household staff and settled down in a land where “Banana trees had leaves as big as umbrellas.” Within a few years, she and her Igbo husband moved to Eastern Nigeria to escape the country’s chaos of hysteria against the Igbo people. But the eastern part of the country was also undergoing change: it briefly rebelled to become the Republic of Biafra. The resulting conflict felt like “a pretend war” to the author—at least before hostile planes filled the sky and bombs fell near her temporary home. In the midst of this chaos, Onyemelukwe confronted the challenge of raising her children in multiple societies. The author is an experienced speaker on topics related to Nigerian culture, and so she proves a dab hand at it here, providing just enough detail to answer readers’ questions but not so much that they feel overwhelmed. Her prose is sturdy and workmanlike, and the pace of her book is stately—never rushing forward during scenes of crisis nor lollygagging when little is afoot. Overall, she’s an excellent steward of her past emotions, and readers will wish they were there at the Kakadu nightclub in Lagos, where she “danced with abandon to the sensual music,” or at a traditional Mmos masquerade, where she trembled at the spectacle.
An accomplished story of life overseas by a woman of the world.