Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Book Review: Night Dancer by Chika Unigwe

One the jacket

Mma has just buried her mother, and now she is alone.

She has been left everything.

But she's also inherited her mother's bad name.

A bold, brash woman, the only thing her mother refused to discuss was her past. Why did she flee her family and bring her daughter to a new town when she was a baby? What was she escaping from?

Abandoned now, Mma has no knowledge of her father or her family - but she is desperate to find out.

Night Dancer is a powerful and moving novel about the relationship between mothers and daughters, about the bonds of family, about knowing when to fulfil your duty, and when you must be brave enough not to. Presenting a vista of Nigeria over the past half-century, it is a vibrant and heartfelt exploration of one woman's search for belonging.

My review
Night Dancer begins with Mma who has just lost her mother Ezi. Ezi has left some letters, which Mma finds in her room, and begins to read involuntarily. The book opens to show that Mma harboured some hostile feelings towards her mother, and blamed her giving her a life in which she was deprived of her father's love. Ezi had left her husband when Mma was a little baby, and had refused to tell Mma anything about her father.

The book is written in three parts - it begins in 2001, goes to the past and talk about the 1960s and then comes back to 2002. Through the chapters, the what, why and how of what happened are revealed. Slowly, there is clarity about why a particular character acted in a certain manner. Along with Mma, the mystery unfolds for the reader too. In Mma's words, we also get to know how difficult it was for her, to be brought up by a single mother, whom the society scorned.

Ezi's letters to Mma not only tell her a lot about her mother, they also lead her to the lost family she never knew existed. She meets her father and finally gets to know why her mother had to leave him. Slowly, her misconceptions towards her mother start to fade away.

The book is set in Nigeria. As an Indian, looking around, I know being a single mother is difficult. My own mother has been one. I can only imagine how much more difficult it would be in Nigeria. I remember, my mother's divorced friend once telling her, "It's easier to be a single parent for you, you have lost your husband. I am a divorcee, life is hell for me. The society questions every action that I take, even if it's innocent." These were the words I remembered when reading about Ezi's life.

Night Dancer was an easy and smooth read, in fact an exceptional read. 

Rating: 4.5/5

[This review was for Random House IndiaThe opinions are strictly my own and not been written under any obligation.]

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