In this month of love, I'll be doing a review of a book centered on a man's love for his family and fellow human. In the midst of war, trials and been far away from home, it is love that keeps his mind together.
Recently I began thirsting for African literature in a very nostalgic way mainly because that's what I grew up reading. So I picked up an old read titled, 'The Last Duty' by Isidore Okpewho, a Nigerian novelist and English lecturer.
Looking at the book cover and then the title, you'd think this is a war novel but it really isn't about the war. Sure it's set in the war times, depicting the Nigerian civil war in the 60's but it's mainly centered on Oshevire an innocent man thrown in prison for over three years.
Oshevire was falsely accused of collaborating with the rebel troops and even more complicated is the fact that his wife was originally from the rebel town. He was taken away from his wife and child detained with a couple others. His wife thereafter lived in fear because the rest of the community hated her for being an indigene of the rebel town.
Without her husband by her side, Aku lived in constant fear and survived off the money and food she got from Toje, an old man who was a much respected chief in the village of Urukpe. Aku knew Toje wasn't being nice just because he cared, she knew what the man wanted, she was one beautiful woman.
What Aku didn't know however was that it was Toje who set her husband up to be detained. He had supplied false testimonies of Oshevire being a rebel supporter because he hated the man's guts and was a major competitor in his rubber business.
With Oshevire gone, Toje quickly tries to use his wife Aku to test if he really is impotent after catching a general disease. He intends to rendezvous at his nephew's house, Odibo, who he constantly ridicules for being cripple.
An integral character in this book is Major Ali the commander of the federal troops. He thought it wise to keep watch over Oshevire's wife, Aku while he was away. Whether this was a good decision or not, I'd leave you to find out.
Will Aku remain the ever faithful wife and patiently wait for her husband to be released? Or will she succumb to the mount of pressure from the hateful community and from Chief Toje and his biological assay.
It was very easy to develop a soft spot for Oshevire for the good natured man that he is. I admired how honest he was over and over in his tribunal trials, and how all he ever thought about was his wife and child, the thought that kept him going.
I also loved how the book paints a realistic picture of the Nigerian civil war, something you don't get taught at school. It shows how daily living became a struggle, wives leaving husbands and children, interethnic clashes and a deadened communal spirit.
The book took a different turn with Oshevire's character that left me thinking how love can make you lose your mind. Love is so powerful and if your brain doesn't work with your heart, you'd be overpowered. The war of the mind can kill faster than any civil war.
This book has got a 3.8/5 rating on Goodreads and I'd give it same too. If you're looking for a read with love and conflict as a theme, I suggest you go for this.
Here's a link to the contest post.