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HAPPINESS, LIKE WATER by Chinelo Okparanta


by Chinelo Okparanta

Pub Date: Aug. 13th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-544-00345-3
Publisher: Mariner/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

One of Granta’s New Voices honorees, Okparanta debuts with ten pieces focusing on her native Nigeria.

The book opens with "On Ohaeto Street." A mysterious narrator tells of young Chinwe marrying Eze but finds he treasures possessions more than a wife. "Wahala!" follows: Ezinne seeks help from a dibia, a folk healer, for her inability to conceive, her pain invisible to her husband and misunderstood by her mother. The haunting "Fairness" speaks of color and class, with a young girl, her mother entranced by Glamour and Elle, feeling "something like envy in me." Most affecting is "Runs Girl." A college student, a religious girl, meets a Yahoo Boy, one of the "ones who rolled into town in sleek cars and with pockets full of cash." Many of Okparanta’s stories unfold amongst the Niger Delta’s guava and plantain trees, where big oil employs and pollutes, amid flat-screens and BMWs and NEPA power failures leaving candles to hold back the night. In "America," a Port Harcourt teacher discovers her sexuality and then decides to follow her love to America. Later stories plumb the Nigerian-American immigrant experience. A daughter narrates "Shelter," following along as her Nigerian mother meets rejection at a Boston domestic abuse shelter because of visa issues. In "Tumours and Butterflies," Uchenna, disowned by her abusive father as she leaves for university, reluctantly comes home to assist her mother.

Nigeria, the vibrancy of its heart, the soul of its people, is captured in these stories.