Book Review: Night Dancer by Chika Unigwe

night-dancerHate can be very powerful. More than love. And just as destructive. Hate blinds us from seeing the truth. It blinds us from seeing reason. It blinds us from what is. All hate wants to do is rule, domineer, and be. Hate does not want to be pacified. Hate wants to be right. And when hate does not get its way it’s big bad brother, anger, comes onto the scene. Hate is a product of misunderstanding. Miscommunication. Jumping to conclusions. And basically being stubborn.

In this book there is so much hate going around. In its purest form. The main character, hates her mother. She is dead. But she still hates every rotting fiber of her being. From a tender age she had been forced to live without knowing her father. Not his name. Not where he works. Or what he did. Her mother never minced words when it came to the question. She was always told off. Mother was always right. Mother was her father and mother was also her mother. That should be enough.

But kids, kids are brutal. Brutally honest. A kid will lie but when they tell the truth it is blunt. It will hit you at the back of your head and knock you out cold. Kids don’t see the blurry line or the different shades of gray that we have coated our truths in. A child sees black and white. Hot or cold. Right or wrong.

At only 22 Adamma recalls how hard it was growing up. With kids throwing jeers her way. Because she did not have a father. She wanted to believe that he died. Maybe gallantly in a war. He was as soldier. But her mother, Ezi, could not afford her these lies. And for a child these were like torrents of piercing daggers to her little fragile heart.

Her neighbors were worse. They all knew what her mother did. And a daughter, according to them, must pay for her mother’s sins. So she Adamma, was isolated. No one wanted their children playing with her lest they catch the habit. So her life was full of isolation. She only had her mother. A mother she hated. So in essence she only had herself.

Right after her mother’s death Adamma felt some sort of freedom. This was her mother. But she did not have that attachment to her. To her she was the devil. For letting her live like that. She did not see things in the eyes of her mother. But all that was about to change. Because even though she was dead, she had left behind memoirs. They had to be memoirs, not letters. Because Ezi always had a penchant for the bourgeois.

The letters, sorry, memoirs are a journey a mother takes her daughter. A journey that takes Adamma through her mother’s pain. A journey that melts away the hate and builds an appreciation for her mother’s resilience. She begins to connect with her mother in a way she had not known she could. Remorse slowly creeps in. And she begins to feel a deep emotional connection that had been missing. She sees Ezi, her mother, as a hero.

Chika Unigwe, knows how to write. That could be a vague statement but you will only appreciate it once you dig into the book. She crafts her words carefully. She has a way of provoking thought. She makes you hate and love her mother at her bidding. She makes you identify with her predicament. She forces you to look at your own relationship with your mother. It’s amazing.

Enjoy the read.


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