A man’s philosophical retelling of his remarkable life.
Ekenna, godson of the first president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria—a chief who’s also an attorney in Los Angeles—says this book is the result of a dare from friends. Following through on this dare, Ekenna, the seventh of 19 children, has analyzed personal emails, poems, folklore and anecdotes, and arranged those reflections into an amorphous narrative of his life. With this project, he extensively examines his goals and processes: “The subject was undefined, indeterminate, sort of, the general discourse took on a life of its own, and before we knew it, it transmuted into grammar, writing, you know, that sort of thing.” With his playful but simultaneously eloquent prose amid long digressions and preoccupations, Ekenna gives the inviting impression that he is merely having an intelligent conversation with close friends. The fascinating, unusual structure of his family, an encounter with a veritable rainmaker and his time as an “accidental refugee” during the Nigerian civil war can feel like mere asides to his methodical examination of English grammar or rigorous primary school routines. He successfully mines small moments for profound implications, such as the moving scene when a woman in California surprises him with a polite greeting—prompting his email rant on racism and alienation in the United States. However, this insight, which is more often focused on inconsequential details, tends to work against opportunities for emotional resonance. As a so-called “veerer” on the path of life, “I have in me the blood of a medicine man, a magician of sorts, and one who communed with the gods,” he says, “and I would have like [sic] to veer even further”—a philosophy his writing intriguingly reflects, difficult to follow though it may be.
A unique collection of observations and impressions that’s ultimately too pensive to be engaging.