|Book Reveiw 6-20
Sunday, October 28, 2007
By Denise Turney
Rumors of Civil War coming to Ugwata and the Biafran peoples ignites a fire in Chudi and his wife, a woman through whose eyes readers experience the coming revolt. The book’s author, Flora Nwapa, is Nigeria’s first woman novelist. She gets to the crux of the story at once. The story begins: “After fleeing from Enugu, Onitsha, Port Harcourt and Elele, I was thoroughly tired of life.”
Tired or not, this mother and wife, who remains nameless throughout the book and who takes the book’s reader inside the heart of the war, is not one to sit idle. While I read Never Again I thought about struggles and conflicts in my own personal life, inside my own being. I thought of how tiring it can become to continue to struggle, and if not to struggle, to continue to think that a new struggle is on the horizon. Flora Nwapa does a splendid job of writing Never Again along these parallels. Anyone who has lived through or with struggle can readily spot pieces of their own experience inside the pages of the book.
In Never Again the local government places threats before its citizens in a desperate effort to keep the people of Ugwata from fleeing their homes and escaping to another village so they wouldn’t have to endure another civil war. It is understandable. The government wants a strong military and band of civilians to fight the approaching Nigerians who have come to take their land, make their hard worked for homes, produce, material goods and businesses their own. It has happened before, four other times to be exact. The people of Ugwata are tired of fleeing; they are also tired of fighting.
The mother in the story is at times bolder than she intends to be. She has learned that a good married woman, although strong in her own right, follows her husband. The mother in Never Again strives to do this, but the fear the threat of another war brings her causes her to say things to people she would not otherwise have said. She makes it clear to the government that their words of safety and their promises that the Ugwata military has turned the Nigerian vandals back is mere propaganda, empty attempts to keep as many people in the village to allow for as strong a fight as possible, a fight the mother thinks will bring more death than victory.
I was alarmed at both how easy and how difficult it is to sit and wait for word that your homeland has been penetrated and then to follow the news with a swift escape to a nearby village that has not yet been invaded. People in Ugwata pack swiftly. They can only take meager belongings with them. What remains at their houses they hide in attics and hope the invaders don’t find their hiding places and loot, leaving them with much rebuilding to do when they do return home, if it becomes safe to do so. Women give birth to children on the road as they struggle to escape. Babies don’t wait and sometimes women giving birth don’t survive the push.
The resilience of the Biafran people is remarkable. So too is the poignant style with which the author creates this powerful story. Those familiar with Flora Nwapa’s writings will be well pleased. Those new to this Nigerian writer’s work, will be pleasantly surprised.
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