RSS Feed (xml)

Powered By

Skin Design:
Free Blogger Skins

Powered by Blogger

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

A disclosure of societal ills

Title: Eyo (2009)
Author: Abidemi Sanusi
Publisher: WordAlive Publishers
Price: Shs24,000
Available: All book stores
Reviewer: Dennis D. Muhumuza. 

Eyo may have lost out to South Africa’s Trespass (Dawn Garisch) for Africa's Best Book in this year’s Commonwealth Writer’s Prize but it is still up there among the continent's finest works of realistic fiction.

The 338-page novel is an exposé of the moral corruption, sexual perversity, child trafficking, grinding poverty and the love of filthy lucre among other ills that are antagonistic to human happiness.

It is divided into four parts and opens in Ajegunle, a notorious slum in Lagos where the eponymous young heroine is seen hawking iced water. She’s sexually abused by her father, Wale and her mother does nothing about it because she went through a similar experience when she still a little girl and has therefore come to accept it as the situation of the woman.

Eyo is then trafficked to the UK under the guise of attaining an education and supporting her family. Everyone is seemingly happy to see her escape “the curse of jungle city”. Little do they know that what awaits her there is but the worst domesticity, sex slavery, violence and slow starvation. Eyo’s suffering, which is beyond her control, makes you think that the so called "European Dream" we chase after is a sham; that trials and tribulations are everywhere and that we are better off enduring and doing all we can to right the wrongs in our country instead of running away.

Eyo’s situation worsens at Big Madame’s, the woman who runs the biggest and most organised brothel. Madame has accumulated enough money and clout as would “bring down the movers and shakers of the British economy,” many of whom are her clients.

Madame really means business that she even watches the girls when working to make sure they are performing their sexual duties right and pleasing customers. It’s the author’s major hint that both men and women are at fault; that everyone shares in the blame for making things go so awry.

Arguably, it's the power and controversy of the subject matter and not the crispness of the author’s style that sustains the reader’s interest in Eyo. The complexity of Eyo’s relationship with Johnny comes with its own resonation as well. Johnny, a pimp, is Eyo’s lover who beats her up but also brings her breakfast in bed and professes in a seemingly sincere voice his love of her. She begins to regard him secretly as her only friend. And it’s the first we see Eyo get close to a man. Also the first time we see a little humanity in Johnny. This relationship is perhaps the hook of the novel. In many ways, it's depressing yet gripping; I connected with it most in the novel.

I also got the feeling that the author struggles to harmonise her transitions. Even the novel’s ending is ambiguous rather than suspenseful.
When Eyo is finally rescued by Fr. Stephen and Sr. Mary and granted her wish of returning to Nigeria, her mother, Olufunmi is delighted: “God is good,” she says. “He has redeemed what the devil had stolen.” Ironically, the same woman begins to hound her poor daughter calling her another burden even though she’s well aware Eyo was a sex slave. The unfairness of it all is maddening, but then you recognise this insensitivity is a result of the desperation of the times.

What's more, the bad people get away, projecting the novel as devoid of poetic justice. But that's because it's the system that's difficult to fight. At least Eyo is rescued and her mother eventually throws out her husband. Tolu also testifies against Sam for molesting Eyo and the relentless Fr. Stephen and Sr. Mary are making a slow but steady difference in the lives of some teenage prostitutes with their benevolence. Maybe there’s hope after all. Just maybe.

--Saturday Monitor, April 24, 2010