TITLE : Black Sunday
AUTHOR : Tola Rotimi Abraham
GENRE : Literary Fiction, West African / Nigerian Fiction
FR REVIEW : ⭐⭐⭐ (2.5 – 3 Stars)
DATE OF PUBLISHING : 6 August 2020
DISCLAIMER : Thank you, Netgalley and Canongate Books for providing me with an ARC of this book. I am leaving this review voluntarily.
Black Sunday by Tola Rotimi Abraham is a West-African literary fiction set in Lagos. I requested this book primarily because of the cover. That cover drew me in, and once I read the synopsis I was intrigued by it. The story is told from the POVs of the 4 siblings who were left by their mother and then, later on by their father as well. They were entrusted to the care of a reluctant grandmother with whom they spent their life. The story is an up-close examination of the 4 individuals’ lives, and how they grow up with abandonment, loss, poverty, and other struggles. There are several important social issues and difficult topics that are discussed through the siblings’ experiences. All the uncomfortable topics that were laid bare in this book brings forward powerful commentary regarding exploitation, rape, sexual assault, misogyny, patriarchy, power-struggles, predatory men in power, and religious hypocrisy.
Life was comfortable for the twins Bibike and Ariyike and their younger brothers Andrew and Peter. Their mother worked as a secretary for a political figure and was the main breadwinner for the family. Changes in the government lead to the loss of their mother’s job. Fights ensue between the parents due to the stress created from unemployment. Their family struggles to keep their living situation stable and fails. After several efforts to keep the family stable their mother leaves the kids and her husband to go to the US. After the abandonment of their mother, the girls and boys were taken to their grandmother’s house. Their father leaves them in search of a new job and never comes back. The family experiences constant failures and this leaves the kids with no parent to lean back on. The story portrays vividly how each of them copes with the situation of abandonment and loss of their parents and subsequent decline of their wealth and social status.
The story as I mentioned before is said from the 4 siblings’ viewpoints with chapters alternating with a different perspective. The structure is quite different. There is not much connection between the chapters. There are time jumps as well. We follow them through the younger years to adults and the progression is not in order. The chapters give us a glimpse into their private and intimate life and the details are at times very unsettling to read about. While their individual stories were intriguing and thought-provoking the overall story had no cohesion or conclusion. It felt like a slice of their life that was bared to the readers and along with it the dark and harsh reality women face in a patriarchal society. The character work was interesting. All of the characters were flawed and imperfect. The unapologetic way of showcasing characters with their flaws on display was excellent. There was no cushioning of the truth. Their journeys were laid out as it is and helps us understand their struggles and choices they made.
I am still at a loss for words when it comes to this book. I don’t know how to explain what this book is about comprehensively and I am still struggling when it comes to my feelings regarding this book. I gave the book 2.5 stars leaning towards 3 stars. This story leans heavily on the social elements to paint the narrative and the influence of societal expectations is well depicted. The raw and direct portrayal of the decline of a family and their social standing in the community blended with a powerful and unflinching commentary on the social issues makes it a distinct story worth checking it out.
Twin sisters Bibike and Ariyike are enjoying a relatively comfortable life in Lagos in 1996. Then their mother loses her job due to political strife and their father gambles away their home, and the siblings are thrust into the reluctant care of their traditional Yoruba grandmother. Inseparable while they had their parents to care for them, the twins’ paths diverge once the household shatters: one embracing modernity as the years pass, the other consumed by religion.