A teenage boy falls in love and battles with his father in the years leading up to Ghana’s independence.
In this debut novel, Wright tells the story of Ani Baknu, son of a privileged Ghanaian couple. The book opens in 1948, when the country is still under British rule, but Ani and his friends have to contend with the political violence in Accra. Ani’s more immediate problem is his overbearing father, Kofi, who wants to control his career path, love life, and loyalties. Ani, determined to chart his own course, begins dating Deka Delmojus, the daughter of his father’s longtime antagonist. Ani and Deka’s relationship deepens (He tells her: “After my mother, you’re the only one I trust to give me support. You’re the only one I trust to give me comfort. You’re the only one I trust to give me true love”). Kofi tries to split up the couple, and the girl finds herself the target of increasingly violent attacks. Ani, working with the police and learning to take responsibility for himself (“My dad shouldn’t be the game changer in my own game”), investigates the assaults and moves toward building a future with Deka. He ultimately celebrates his own independence along with that of Ghana. Wright’s Ani, a multilayered character, draws out the reader’s sympathies, despite his Hamlet-like tendency to complain instead of act and his frequent misreading of Deka’s behavior. Unfortunately, the book’s other characters are not as fully realized. Both the narrative (“An outright refusal would engender violence, but acceptance would go against his sense of honesty and integrity”; “On setting his eyes on his father, he beheld a wild streak etched on his face, and his eyes were darkened like the mud waters after the rains”) and the dialogue (“I’ve grappled with my father’s pugnacious attitude. Unfortunately, I’ve failed to uncover reasons for his behavior”; “Your foreboding look smothered my anger. I have too much regard for you, Deka”) are frequently awkward and stilted. While Wright expertly juxtaposes a human coming-of-age tale with a country’s, the unpolished writing style and insufficiently developed supporting characters and motivations keep the story from being an entirely enjoyable read.
An ambitious novel of forbidden romance in colonial Ghana that blends the personal and political to mixed effect.