All losses are not equal: A review of Onyi Nwabineli’s Someday, Maybe – Olukorede S Yishau
Onyi Nwabineli’s arrival on the global literary circle with a novel titled Someday, Maybe has all the trappings of one that will linger on minds for a long time. It is a heartbreaking rendering of a mind shattered by grief and which spuns efforts to make it whole again.
The novel comes at a time when more and more people are choosing to leave instead of living once overwhelmed by life. It portrays a closely-knit Nigerian-Igbo family in London and their rooted-ness in their culture despite being far away from home.
The sights, sound and smells of the United Kingdom dance from one page to the next.
The first person you’ll be introduced to in this novel is Eve, a British-Nigerian whose parents are experts in different areas of medicine. When we meet Eve, her life seems built on these words of Washington Irving: “There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.”
Eve, who is also the narrator, will introduce you to the love of her life. her introduction goes thus: “Around the time my husband was dying, I was chipping ice from the freezer in search of the ice cube tray wedged in the back. But only because I was taking a break from filling his voice mail with recriminations about his failure to communicate his whereabouts. The memory of this along with countless other things would weave together the tapestry of blame I laid upon myself in the days and weeks after his death.”
In the spirit of continued honesty, she also says of him: “He was the great love of her life despite his penchant for going incommunicado, he was, as far as she and everyone else could tell, perfectly happy, yet on New Year’s Eve, does something unimaginable.
From then on, the pages are envolped by grief
When the duo first met, Eve was unprepared for Quentin. She was nineteen. She had taken a place at King’s College to study English and digital media. Until Quentin came into her life, university was more about evenings spent reading Dostoyevsky by lamplight because she thought it romantic. She was shy, self-conscious of what she looked like from behind, and had an expansive vocabulary and access to cheap shots at the student union. Quentin made a new person out of her. So, she just couldn’t understand it when he did what he did without even leaving a note to say why he did it. Efforts to make her grieve less is met with reactions seemingly screaming: All losses are not equal.
Her search for the reason for his action is a major driving force of this novel. Her unending duel with Quentin’s Caucasian mother (Aspen) also pushes the narrative and her discovery of a pregnancy he wasn’t aware of provides another tool to deliver a rousing tale.
The author also puts to good use Eve’s family members and small circle of friends.
Her siblings are understanding, at first, but it gets to a stage they feel she is taking it too far and wondering whether Quentin deserved it what became of him.
Aside its main theme, which is grief, this novel explores interracial marriage and its many complications. She also examines familial love and how a man handles his love for his wife and his mother, who hates his wife. It also explores the role of therapy in grief management.
Nwabineli’s book, as a meditation on grief, cuts like a well-sharpened knife and raises posers: Are we to cheer on Eve as she refuses to be consoled? Are we to agree with her quest for an answer to a clearly rhetorical question? Or are we to just leave her to grieve it all out on her own? And what are we supposed to make of Aspen’s approach to Quentin’s absence? There are so many posers each reader will resolve according to personal experience.
This is one of those books that ring so true and make you wonder if there is a true story beneath this story.
One more thing you will probably love about this book is its descriptive power. Descriptions scream out loud in this novel. Sampler: “I had clumsy sex for the first time with a boy named Dane, who had large hands and pawed at my chest.” And another one: “I give Quentin to the wind, then I take our daughter home.”
Though the tale is not a palatable one, Nwabineli renders it with so much candor and leaves you with no choice but to relish page after page.
The instructive end of the novel is a lesson on how individual differences play significant rolse in how we look for closure. It is never the same. Some do so by doing away with things related to what they are running from and others by keeping those things close.
Nwabineli has offered us a delicacy worth relishing like a well-cooked egusi soup garnished with ponmo, fish and prawns.
***Olukorede S Yishau is the author of In the Name of Our Father Vaults of Secrets and United Countries of America and Other Travel Tales.