Author : Chinelo Oparanta
Publishing Date: September, 2015.
Number of pages: 336
When Ijeoma’s Papa dies during the war, she realises things can never be the same. Can she truly be herself in a world where she’s expected to be something else? Will her mother ever be able to just “Get it” ? Will her marriage be the end of her as she knows it?
Chinelo Okparanta is a writer born and raised in Port-Harcourt, Nigeria. She emigrated to the United States when she was a young girl and has since been educated at the Pennsylvania State University, Rutgers University and Iowa’s writers workshop. She is has held fellowships or visiting professorships at The University of Iowa, Colgate University, Purdue University, City College of New York, and Columbia University. Under the Udala trees is her first novel published in 2015 winning her numerous awards which can be found on her website http://www.chinelookparanta.com. She has had interviews with pulse.ng here and npr books here. Her other works include a short story collection, Happiness like Water.
It’s a book set in the life of Ijeoma, a young Igbo girl who faces a life without a father figure and has to live with her estranged widowed mother who is more selfish than nature predisposes. She searches for meaning and finds it in the most unusual of places and people, because of this, she lives a lie due to fear of her husband, her mother and her society. Can she truly be what nature has made her to be or is she doomed to live an unhappy life? I consider this book a must-read as the writer opens our eyes and helps us understand the story of forbidden love with a twist, betrayal and some negative aspects of religion.
From the story, it seems that Chinelo is a misandrist and this is not me being overly critical. She tells this story from the angry modern-day feminist point of view and as much as I really enjoyed the overall story, I wish she was less dramatic with the character of Chibundu, the excessively refined patriarchal husband who wants a boy-child. I mean, what’s up with Igbo female writers in diaspora and their man-hating? Her father dying was also unnecessary for the plot since there was no connection with the story overall although Ijeoma does say that the events may have been prevented if her father was alive. Who knows? She neither gives us the perspective of Chibundu nor Amina which I believe is unfair because they looked like they had so much to say instead, she only let’s us see the story through one mind’s eye. This is disheartening because I do not understand the conflict between them all. The writing was wonderful but overall had a boring undertone which made it very difficult to finish.
I don’t advise very religious people to read the book because she makes mockery about how blind religion has made Ifeoma’s mother. If you are religious and would take offence, I advise that you stay away from this book! 😂
Heads up to those who don’t like gory descriptions as some scenes are graphic( in the imagination of the reader).
Some scenes are also subliminally erotic and are not advisable for younger readers.
The biggest appeal for me is the message she passes across concerning how the members of the LGBTQ community are treated. She deserves praise for such a daring feat, risking 14 yrs imprisonment is no small thing. I also have to say that telling a first person narrative from beginning to end is a stellar accomplishment! Ijeoma was the only narrator for such a lengthy book and she could make us be enthralled by her highs and lows.
It actually has a happy ending, I’m sorry guys but I’m a sap for books with happy endings. 😍
“God, who created you, must have known what He did. Enough is enough.”_Mama
To me this meant that she finally decided to accept her daughter for who she was. I feel that what she is passing across is that we should accept humans for who they are, perks and all, and not antagonize them for being different.
Overall, I’ll give the book a 3.5 out of 5 stars, meaning it was hard to finish but still enjoyable eventually.
My favorite character from the book is Ndidi, She is assertive, bold and knows what she wants. She doesn’t have time for bullshit and she understands her reality. Who’s your favorite character?