February 18, 2016

And After Many Days by Jowhor Ile | Book Review

Paul tells his younger brother that he's off to his friend's house then he buckles his sandals, picks up his backpack and heads out the door. When Paul doesn't return that evening, his family isn't alarmed. Paul's the exemplary child. He's the smart, dutiful firstborn who has never given them cause for worry so there had to be a good explanation for his failure to return home. His father suggests that Paul might have decided to spend the night where he was instead of risking a nighttime trip on Port Harcourt's roads.  "We will see him in the morning" his father says confidently to the family before sending Ajie and Bibi, Paul's anxious siblings, off to bed. He and his wife remain in the living room, awaiting the return of their son. Paul doesn't come back home the next day or the day after. In the days following his disappearance radio and TV announcements are made and missing person flyers are distributed. Where is Paul Utu?

Jowhor Ile's debut novel And After Many Days was released on February 16th by Crown Publishing, a subsidiary of Penguin Random House. I liked And After Many Days a lot especially in the beginning. Jowhor's prose has a beauty and clarity that is enviable. The tale begins with Paul's disappearance and then it travels back and forth between the past and the present in its narration of the events leading up to that fateful day. The answer to Paul Utu's disappearance finally arrives in the last twenty pages and it's disappointing. Couple that with the flat, undramatic wrap up of this tale and I ended up feeling like I had invested my time in a novel that hadn't rewarded me generously in return. Regardless of my feelings there's no denying that Jowhor Ile's a very gifted storyteller and I'll be waiting in line with everyone else to buy his next book.

[Image via Random House]

February 07, 2016

Thirteen Cents by K. Sello Duiker | Book Review

Azure's parents were murdered about three years ago in Cape Town, South Africa. He's twelve years old, almost thirteen, when we meet him in Thirteen Cents, hustling with other street urchins, doing anything to survive each day. Cape Town has a market for sex with underaged boys so Azure sells sex to the white men who pick him up from the dark streets. Selling his body fetches a paltry sum that he uses to eat, cloth himself, pay for protection on the streets, and any leftovers get put away in savings. It's a rough life out there on Cape Town's dangerous streets. It's crazy.

Thirteen Cents is unsettling and very compelling. It's just the right size at 190 pages and I kept wishing I could read it in one sitting without interruptions. The story contains bits of foreign language without any English translations. It didn't affect my reading and I appreciated the absence of translations. Thirteen Cents is bold, dark, and violent. Kudos to the late K. Sello Duiker.

[Image via Amazon]