On the surface, this novel is about the story between Binta, a 55-year-old grandmother, and Reza, a 20-something drug dealer criminal. Set in northern Nigeria, this affair is really a representation of the repressiveness of the culture of Muslim Hausa society. Binta is grieving the loss of her son, Yaro, and finds maternal redemption in her love for Reza. In turn, Reza finds solace in loving Binta, who reminds him of his mother who abandoned him when he was a child. I found this Oedipus/ Jocasta relationship quite distasteful at first, but I accepted it to learn the reasons behind it.
There are themes of unfulfilled dreams, repression of grief and loss, and how violence only begets violence. Ibrahim is critical of these societal mores and presents a sad story against the background of political upheaval and misogynistic religious oppression. Other characters in the Binta / Reza orbit are suffering from PTSD and feelings of betrayal from society’s lack of sympathy to violence and encouragement of sexism. It affects everyone, and eventually the discovery of the affair causes an explosion in this cultural crucible.
Though the setting and characters are interesting, the story was at times repetitive and in the middle became tiresome. The ending was powerful. It’s a complicated story with an important message, and is definitely worth your time.
Many thanks to Cassava Republic Press and Edeweiss for the copy in exchange for my review.