Author: Chuma Nwokolo
Just in case you’re not my best friend, or you’ve never really been around me, or you don’t listen to me well enough because I talk too much for you, I’m going to repeat this: I LOVE CHUMA NWOKOLO.
There’s something about seeing a book by a particular writer and, without flipping it open, you just know that it’s going to be a hit. That’s how I feel about Chuma Nwokolo. I never have to google book reviews or check out ratings of his book before I buy them. The only motivation I need to buy his books is his name on the book. Yes, it’s like that for me.
While I’ll like to talk about my history with his books, I’ll just dive straight to this particular one.
One More Tale For The Road (OMTFTR) is one-of-a-kind. I have read fiction and seen different writing styles, but this book gives a more creative perspective into this whole short story business. Chuma takes a central story and from it builds 7 powerful tales.
At first, when I saw the tagline ‘One Novel, Seven Short Stories’, I thought, ‘How? It’s one novel but different short stories?’ Apparently, I wasn’t thinking enough because Chuma, the president of the ‘Thinking Cap On’ movement made it happen.
The novel is generally about an old dying woman, Ma’ Kanu who had spent all her life being a foster mother to 5 children and a biological mother to 1 child. Her house was renamed Grace Lodge and you’ll also note a Christian under-theme evident throughout the course of the novel.
Ma’Kanu is dying and all her children get the news in their different homes, so they rush down. There’s a lot of reminiscing (which Chuma uses brilliantly to give background story of the family). There’s also a lot of tension surrounding the topic of two of her children who Ma’Kanu maintains, even in the valley of the shadow of painful death, that she will never set her eyes on again. Incest/para-incest business of some sort.
Anyway, Ma’Kanu had always liked to tell stories; in fact she was like the unofficial village story-teller. She had story cards on which different words were written, and to tell a story, each person would pick a card until each picked card was made into a phrase. The storyteller would then take the phrase and tell a story with it.
Ma’Kanu, on her death bed, elects to have a lying-in-state and a wake while still alive. She wants to hear stories from each of her children. The book then takes several interesting twists and turns until we sha sha hear 7 different tales.
Ma’Kanu dies; there’s a funeral, a revelation, and a miracle.
I love how Chuma Nwokolo was able to take the voice and personality of each storyteller and marry it with the tale. The emotional child rendered an emotional tale in an emotional voice. The deaf and dumb child; I could hear the muteness in his tale. The strong first born; I could hear her wisdom and responsibility in her own tale. The one with anger issues; I could hear it (and really, you can’t even miss it – which is the general idea of anger).
The two para-incestuous kids didn’t get to tell any stories; but other characters in the book made up for that.
What I love the most about the book:
- Chuma’s language and style of delivery. I still don’t know any writer who writes so relatably and yet so intelligently. I learn from Chuma’s writing and at the same time, feel like I’m chopping knuckles with him and saying, ‘You Sabi!!’
- The consistent brilliance in the entire novel: I love how each story was different, yet connected. I love how each tale was intelligent and interesting in itself. There was no laxity in making each story excellent.
What I disliked the most about the book:
- The cover art: Chuma has a history of the weirdest cover arts (I think his ‘Ghost of Sani Abacha’) still has the best cover art so far. The book isn’t really an eye-catcher (It’s why I think it was pure serendipity when I picked up his ‘Diaries of A Dead African’, which in turn conscripted me into the Chumarmy)
In conclusion, just in case you’re not my best friend, or you’ve never really been around me, or you don’t listen to me well enough because I talk too much for you, I’m going to repeat this: CHUMA NWOKOLO IS MY 2ND BEST AFRICAN WRITER (the first being me because you know, self-love + actual worthiness)