Love, life, revenge, survival and compassion all figure in this bighearted, daring collection of stories from a gifted Nigerian writer.
Barrett—a prize-winning contributor to several anthologies and journals—shares as much with Raymond Carver or Amy Hempel as Chinua Achebe, from whom he draws inspiration. The author has that innate sense of what it is below the surface that sends people simmering, not to mention the impeccable sense of timing that the form demands. Many of the stories, loosely based on Barrett’s family, are mundane tragedies. In the opener, “The Worst Thing That Happened,” an old-age pensioner with numerous children struggles to find someone to pick her up from cataract surgery. “Godspeed and Perpetua" chronicles the long, slow demise of an arranged marriage and the incredible lengths a noble man must go to in order to protect his family. Others are simply stories of survival. In “The Shape of a Full Circle,” when 14-year-old Dimié loses the money for dinner, not to mention his alcoholic mother’s nightly blessing, he must draw on his grandmother’s good graces for help. It’s one of those stories that Barrett lands with a shattering blow: “When Daoju Anabraba, a smile playing on her chapped lips, uttered the words, ‘I hate your eyes, my son,’ he slapped her.” Another, “Dream Chaser,” plays off the post-modern trope of skilled young hackers cruising the Web for suckers, pretending to be girls they are not. The final story, “A Nairobi Story of Comings and Goings,” is another unromantic heartbreaker about the volatile relationship between a Nigerian man and a white NGO worker. “Love means you make me happy until you don’t,” Barrett writes, with startling finality.
Electrifying tales of vibrant urban nights and acrid, desperate days.