BOOK REVIEW| These Words Expose Us: An Anthology by TNC
No one was more excited when TNC announced the release of this book. I was deep in the throes of exams (aren’t I always?) so I just waited till after exams and then bought the kindle version, because shipping things over here is stress with customs and everything.
The book is an anthology.” It contains 16 stories ranging from superb flash fiction pieces to thought provoking short stories” written by authors Pemi Aguda, Uche Okonkwo, Osemhen Akhibi, Wole Talabi (who is also the editor), Olawale Adetula, Edwin Okolo, Wale Lawal, Marilyn Eshikena, Pamela Naaki Tetteh, Kiah, Chioma Odukwe, Gbolahan Adeola and Bankole Oluwole. The stories highlight the effect of our words, both said and unsaid and how they reveal our deepest fears and vulnerabilities and make or break our relationships.
The book starts out with Pemi Aguda’s “The Thing With Mr. Lawal” which had previously been published on The Kalahari Review. It is written from second person perspective which makes it more entrancing. It tells the tale of a young lady in a relationship with a man as old as her father. I hadn’t read the story when it was posted on TNC, so the ending had me gaping. Definitely a great story to start an anthology. Another riveting story “Naming” by Ms. Aguda also closes the book. It tells of a woman who enjoys non-committal relationships with married men and how a surprising proposal jolts her (hint: its not a marriage proposal)
Uche Okonkwo (Etisalat Flash Fiction Prize winner, 2014) is the author of the second story “Business” which had also been featured on TNC’s site. This story, I’d already read, but re-read nonetheless, because I’m such a fan of the simplistic way she writes. It tells of a different kind of business and pleasure mix which you’ll just have to read to understand. Mr Wole Talabi writes one of the sweetest love stories in “A Certain Sort of Warm Magic” of a man who struggles with letting himself love and be loved because he is unsure of exactly what love should feel like. I could literally feel his indecisiveness through the entire story, but I’m a sucker for love stories and I loved this one. The man is apparently a love story maestro, because his second story “Silence” is beautifully narrated and the last sentence may just be my favorite in the entire book.
You realize with an overwhelming, ineffable certainty that in that moment, under the vaguely eldritch fluorescent glow of the solitary light bulb in her apartment and a million more moments like it, you are both home, with nothing to say and everything to be.
Pamela Naaki Tetteh’s “Introducing Tristan” is one of the stories I loved simply because of it’s ending. It was honest and it’s the first of her work that I’ve read and she weaves some magic with her words and her descriptive skills are very top notch, as are her metaphors;
I didn’t expect this silence that smells like your jollof rice and disapproval
It’s the story of a Nigerian son, who brings his lover, Tristan to meet his mother.
Edwin Okolo’s “The Ballad of Mullikat” was deeply enlightening and forces you to re-imagine the lives of the children who are hawkers. It took a few pages to understand what the story was about, to be honest but I was lost in a good way. I wasn’t lost in the “this is so stressful, I’m losing interest” way, it was more of a fascinated curiosity. He knows his words. His second story, “Kin“, I didn’t like as much. In all honesty, I probably only liked the last sentence. It felt like the entire story was a phone conversation between the two main characters. I liked that it was something different, but it was a tad underwhelming.
“There, I said it” is a flash fiction piece by Olawale Adetula in which a man says why he has no apologies for cheating on his wife. “Apparitions” is Gbolahan Adeola’s tale of a widow’s grief as she comes to terms with her husband’s life and death. It is actually a bit more than that and I did like this story. It had a few good witty statements and I think it’s impressive that a book can be both sad and funny. Marilyn Eshikena’s “The Affair” is a story of an extramarital affair, already ten years running without sex. I thought it was an interesting story. I’m not sure how feasible it is though, but she manages to make an affair sound classy, elegant, even.
My ABSOLUTE FAVORITE is Osemhen Akhibi’s story “Orange Tree“. It is such an emotional rollercoaster of a girl whose entire life revolves around the fact that her father promised her that a tree had been planted in the spot where her placenta had been buried in their hometown. It is a story coursing with secrets and compelling family dynamics that I don’t think I could even ever have conjured. Ms. Akhibi’s storytelling is as good as it gets. “The Girl By The Window” by Chioma Odukwe is a close second. I have never read anything so disturbing in a long while and yet I would re-read over and over just for the chills. It’s so well narrated and it’s disturbing without being hopelessly confusing. It does not give you the impression of a writer trying too hard to be disturbing. I’ll definitely be scouring the interwebs for more from this writer.
Kiah’s “Ilo’s Secret” is a sweet story. One of those with an honest ending. A mother and son’s re-connection after years apart. It didn’t make a solid impression. I do however, like this quote
She reached for his hand then, two of hers with one of his, because she was his mother and mothers gave double, always.
“Ghosts” by Bankole Oluwole was just really confusing for me. I really, really wanted to get it, but it did not make much sense to me. I’m open to listen to someone who has a firm grasp of the plot because I just felt more lost with every word I read. But then again, the protagonist seemed a little crazy as far as I understood. I am such a huge fan of Wale Lawal, but his story “An Afternoon At The Palms” was drowned by too many words. I love the way it began, but it felt like I climbed a mountain that never peaked before I was back at the bottom. I liked the mention of social networking in the story though and how Twitter was incorporated into the story, but it just did not do it for me and it seemed to go on and on and on. I was exhausted at the end.
I loved most of the stories and it was overall such a lovely book to read and definitely one to be proud of. I am so proud of all those who contributed to the book and of Mr 0toxic who created the cover image! It felt a lot like stories by the people, of the people and for the the people. Thank you, TNC.
**TNC stands for The Naked Convos