A family reckons with the sudden, inexplicable disappearance of a child in this debut novel from a young Nigerian writer.
On the eve of Ajie and Bibi’s return to high school, their 17-year-old older brother, Paul, steps out to see a friend and doesn't return. The night passes, then another day. Paul, the well-behaved, exemplary student, has never disappeared before, and the household is thrown into turmoil. “Paul knows how dangerous the roads can be at night,” murmurs his worried mother. Paul’s father turns to the police, then radio and newspaper announcements. As the last person to see Paul before his disappearance, Ajie, the youngest child, is wracked with guilt that shadows his relationships with his sister, Bibi, and their parents. The story gracefully weaves back and forth in time from the siblings' early childhood to the present day in their Port Harcourt, Nigeria, neighborhood, and suddenly, every little thing is imbued with deeper meaning, made fateful through retrospect. “Things happen in clusters,” Ajie thinks. And this was a year “of rumors, radio announcements, student riots, and sudden disappearances,” a year where “five young men had been shot dead by the square in broad daylight.” This is the world of Ajie and his family, a world Ile builds in rich, vivid details. But the disappearance of Paul remains the central driving question of the narrative. Where did he go? And was his disappearance fair play or foul? This engrossing novel, couched in poetic, evocative language, creates a suspenseful yet sophisticated narrative from the first page. Here are beautifully drawn characters grounded in the universal story of young Ajie discovering the world around him—a world recovering from the not-so-distant wars of the previous generations and their legacy, which still bleeds into present politics.
A deeply rewarding novel that heralds the birth of a major new literary talent.