|(Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book!)|
I've just started reading Okey Ndibe's debut novel, Arrows of Rain. I'm only a few chapters in, but can already tell that this is going to be a great read. The story is described as a "powerful fable about the colonial legacy of corruption and the power of story to overcome injustice. It is silence that is the true villain of in this novel." How incredible does that sound? As for the plot of the story itself: "In the fictional country of Madia (based in part on Ndibe's native Nigeria) a young prostitute runs into the sea and drowns. The last man who spoke to her, the "madman" Bukuru, is asked to account for her last moments. When his testimony implicates the Madian armed forces, Bukuru is arrested and charged with her murder. At the first day of trial, Bukuru, acting as his own attorney, counters these charges with allegations of his own, speaking not only of government complicity in a series of violent assaults and killings, but telling the court that the president of Madia himself is guilty of rape and murder. The incident is hushed up and Bukuru is sent back to prison. But a young journalist manages to visit him, and together they journey through decades of history that illuminate Bukuru's life, and that of the entire nation."
I've read the part where the body is discovered and a crowd surrounds it until the police arrive. The lifeguard tells his version of what happened repeatedly, playing up to the large crowd. A journalist stands by and says nothing, but takes note of everything happening. Its his first assignment and his editor had dispatched him to the beach on New Year's Day to get reactions from people regarding the "latest farce" in government. Armed with pen and paper, he stumbled upon the murder of a prostitute instead. From the beginning we can tell that the police take no real interest in investigating this woman's death and would rather be anywhere but at work. They arrest a man who claims to have attempted to help the woman and soon we are in the courtroom where he is representing himself before the court. As the dialogue continues it is rather apparent that he will be sentenced as guilty - the judge and prosecuting attorneys get riled up when the accused brings up the name of the president and declares the vice squad guilty of rape. The crowd in the courtroom love the drama and "ooh' and "ahh" throughout the short trial. After holding the accused in contempt, the judge decides to postpone the trial until later. And now the reporter who wrote about the murder on the beach and attended the trial has just received a mysterious phone call telling him to dress appropriately and meet someone the next day. Worried that it could be a ruse to arrest him or kill him for writing about the murder on the beach, he decides to attend the meeting and leaves a note in his desk for someone at work to find in case he goes missing. Talk about covering his bases. Anyhow, the meeting winds up being a ruse to get the reporter to meet with Bukuru (the accused). Apparently, the president wants to poison Bukuru, so he fears for his life. He wants Femi (the reporter) to write his story - he will jot down what he remembers and smuggle it to Femi, who will in turn write about it in the paper. He calls himself an underdog and Femi is taken with that term and agrees to help Bukuru. And now I'm about to read what Bukuru remembers.
Talk about a riveting read. I am hooked. I can't wait to read what Bukuru has written to Femi, especially as he plans on sharing about his past (which I'm sure will be interesting). As for Femi, I'm hoping he can handle the task of telling Bukuru's story. The idea of a story as a defense mechanism is exciting to me - words do have power and I am thrilled to see how they will work out in Bukuru's case and defense. I can't wait to get back to this book later today.
Hope you all are enjoying some great reads this holiday season! Happy reading!!