What A Jolly Ride: A review of Sola Osofisan’s “The Simple Joys of Her Final Days” — Olukorede S Yishau

Sola Osofisan’s most recent book is a collection of a dozen short stories titled The Simple Joys of Her Last Days.

Osofisan sets the stories in Nigeria, his nation of birth, and cities around the US, which he now calls home.

In the stories, we encounter grief, we see betrayal, we see racism, we see discrimination, we see racial suspicions and a number of other challenges the human race faces daily.

It is a potpourri of sorts with the bulk of the stories told from the third person point of view. 

The title story is about a son, Banji, his mother and his fiancée, Catalina. The son and mother are Nigerians and the fiancée is American. The story takes off when Catalina takes Banji’s mother’s phone call from Nigeria.

Before the call, Banji’s mother has been informed of Catalina and she sees no sense in her son’s involvement with her.

So, when she answers the phone, Banji’s mother is unfair to her and she storms out of the house. By the time Banji comes to the phone, mother and son duel. It really is a tale with so much to take away. 

An average reader is bound to be drawn in by the suspense and the grief in the story titled “Drought Out of Season”.

In it, a mother arrives at an airport in the United States and is not met by her son-in-law who is supposed to pick her up.

To compound her woes she is unable to reach her daughter. She eventually reaches the son-in-law but he sounds drunk and nothing like the pleasant young man who prostrated when he came to ask for her daughter’s hand in marriage.

Instead of coming to pick her, he advises her to take a cab. As she journeys to the house, we get the sense that all is not well and when she gets to the house, the son-in-law she meets is drunk and in a messy environment and unable to tell her where her daughter is or if she has been delivered of the baby they are expecting.

The encounter between mother and daughter will get you emotional.

Injustice is x-rayed in the story titled “A Woman In The Corner”. In it, a new Divisional Police Officer (DPO) arrives at her station and sees a woman in a corner but her subordinates are unable provide an explanation for why she has been arrested. She has a bundle in her hand which turns out to be a dead baby.

The shocking details she reveals to the DPO breathe oxygen into the story. 

And in “New Every Morning”, we meet a promiscuous medical doctor fond of sexually exploiting his nurses.

He soon meets a new nurse who is not dancing to his tune. He finds his way to her house by the Atan Cemetery in Yaba, Lagos. She tries persuading him to leave but he refuses and starts threatening her job.

The story soon descends into the magical and fantastic leaving the reader enthralled.

Have you read a story that only makes sense when you get to the last line?

That is what Osofisan achieves with “Rag Doll” about a girl named Bolu and a seeming madman.

Bolu keeps going to this forsaken man and fears not the possibility of being a recipient of violence from a sick soul.

She even queries his description as a madman. What we find out at the end of the story after her mother comes to take her back home is both heartbreaking and heartwarming.

Temptation comes in different ways and many times it has nothing to do with sex.

That is one takeaway from “Mysterious Ways”.

Zara is facing in-law challenges and her husband is unable to save her. Then one day she goes shopping and a man offers to help her with her shopping.

He also offers much more which will leave you as flabbergasted as Bolu.

This story, is a tricky tale with an ending that will divide opinions. 

In “Disorderly Person”, we see the extent a father can go to atone for his past neglect of his children.

Set in the United States, we meet a man, his children and an aggrieved American wife. Two of his three children are from his first marriage in Nigeria.

He gets to America and marries a citizen in order to cement his stay. His Nigerian wife dies and he is compelled to move the children to America, a development which infuriates the American wife. The children’s discovery of their father’s American family also causes chaos.

Politics and the desperation that go hand in hand with it find expression in “It Is What It Is,” a story about a president who is facing serious opposition to his second term ambition.

His godfather, who is responsible for making his election a walk-over, is dead and the opposition is bent on seeing him out of the presidential villa.

His desperation takes him to a seer in the dead of the night. There he faces the humiliation of being kept waiting outside the gate and when he is eventually let in, his first encounter is to put it mildly, un-presidential.

Other stories, such as “Scatter,” “Immortal,” “A Hereditary Disease,” and “Credible Threat” show Osofisan’s dexterity and his exceptional ability to paint vivid pictures with words.

In those stories, we meet a struggling immigrant whose inability to prove his legal status in America stands against him and the big money he wins in a random draw because to claim his winnings, he has to prove his identity.

We also meet a postman starting on a new route and facing serious hostility on the streets of America.

This is a collection worth checking out!

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

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