Albert’s debut novel explores women’s roles in modern Nigeria.
This portrait of contemporary Africa sees feminism through characters including the director of an orphanage, a corporal/philanthropist from the United States who provides quiet but dedicated support to women’s causes, and a doctor who runs a women’s leadership organization. Secondary to its message is the novel’s episodic plot: a man brings his daughter to Mrs Lawal’s orphanage; Mrs. Lawal and Dr. Hafsat meet American visitor Edna Shay, who travels to meet the orphanage’s largest donor; and Dr. Hafsat struggles with the political and practical challenges of developing female leaders and fighting corruption. At times the plot is set aside entirely, with multiple chapters devoted to speeches given at Dr. Hafsat’s meetings, which allows Albert to take a didactic approach: “The post-independence Nigerian women became hypnotized, and the perils of bad government transcended from state to community and to the family levels.” Although characters face many challenges, the book ends on an optimistic note, with a clear path forward for Nigeria if it embraces the possibilities offered by women’s full participation in civic life. Albert delivers dialogue with an apparently Nigerian flavor that is occasionally jarring: “Madam, the quietness of this place has charmed me so much that I developed a very strong dislike for Motor Park, my abode, overnight.” However, the perceived authenticity of the narrative voice is limited by characters’ tendency to provide acronyms for organizations they mention: “I am Bridget Shawn, the president of Females Perfoming [sic] Musicians Association of Nigeria (FPMAN).” The book is ultimately more successful as a polemic than as a novel, since the plot presents neither an overall conflict nor a resolution of all its elements. In his focus on the book’s message, however, Albert presents a coherent list of the problems currently facing Nigeria as well as a path forward that incorporates both men’s and women’s contributions to community success.
Suffers from the subordination of plot to its feminist message, but presents authentic perspectives on modern challenges in Nigeria.