Book review: Arrows Of Rain by Okey Ndibe
Okey Ndibe’s debut novel Arrows of Rain was first published in June 2000 almost twenty years ago then second edition published January 2015 but reading it felt like he was looking at today’s current happenings in Africa, the dark secrets we keep and our silent witnessing of history.
There internet and news have been full of the unrest in our neighbouring country South Africa, horror stories of xenophobic violence and the escalating crisis that is the shocking number of missing persons, rape, violence and murder of women. I picked up the book Arrows Of Rain hoping for respite from the madness and got drawn into the madness of the republic of Madia and I did not put it down until I got to the last page.
Arrows of Rain is set in the fictional land of Madia, a federal republic somewhere in Western Africa over a backdrop most African states can relate to, transitioning from the colonial era and the legacy of corruption and tyrants that plague our nations. Within this premise, a homeless vagrant, Bukuru, considered mad stands accused of being a serial rapist and murderer and on his trial he dares to accuse untouchables as the culprits, military members of the vice task force and the Life-President of the Federal Republic of Madia; General Isa Palat Bello.
General Isa Palat Bello rose to power after a military coup removed Madia’s first prime minister Askia Amin and his government on charges of contributing to the economic adversity and political turmoil of the republic, and the citizens of Madia had rejoiced and hailed the army for their service but as history has shown such a story never ends happily…
Parts of this book were like seeing footage from our own not so distant past, a former president “resigned”in a coup that was said to be not a coup, and the increased crackdown of any opposition by the military at any sign of protest, they say an old lady shivers when dry bones are mentioned.
Arrows of Rain explores a diverse range of themes and topics some explicitly others in fleeting reference from patriarchy, marriage, success, to politics, violence and of course silence.
The novel also touches on mental health as we travel into Bukuru’s mind and memories to discover his his story, the birth, death, grief and from the world of those with power into the night’s underbelly world of prostitution, rape.
“Rain has two faces,” concluded my grandmother. “It can give life, but its arrows can also cause death.” Arrows of rain: my grandmother’s phrase for rain’s malefic face.
Arrows of Rain is a journey to redemption and paying the price for silence, the mouth owes a debt to words which can only be paid by words.
“Remember this: a story never forgives silence. Speech is the mouth’s debt to a story.”
This book maybe a work of fiction but it has you questioning how much of our misbegotten history can be traced to silence. Silence to rape, murder, crime, any situation that demands someone to speak up and according to the words of grandmother Nne, a story never forgives silence.
PS Thank you Mable for the recommendation you can read her review here: Arrows Of Rain