BOOK REVIEW: ‘Ogadinma’ by Ukamaka Olisakwe

‘Ogadinma. Or, Everything Will Be Alright’ is a modern, feminist coming-of-age story of a young woman in Nigeria. It will be published in Nigeria by Masobe Books and in the UK by The Indigo Press.

The Blurb:

‘Ogadinma Or, Everything Will be All Right’ tells the story of the naïve and trusting teenager Ogadinma as she battles against Nigeria’s societal expectations in the 1980s. After a rape and unwanted pregnancy leave her exiled from her family in Kano, thwarting her plans to go to university, she is sent to her aunt’s in Lagos and pressured into a marriage with an older man. When their whirlwind romance descends into abuse and indignity, Ogadinma is forced to channel her independence and resourcefulness to escape a fate that appears all but inevitable. Ogadinma, the UK debut by Ukamaka Olisakwe, introduces a heroine for whom it is impossible not to root, and announces the author as a gifted chronicler of the patriarchal experience.

Literandra Review:

‘Ogadinma’ is not your everyday coming of age story.

The protagonist’s story, especially in the light of recent events in Nigeria, could not be more timely or pertinent. It is a touching and too-often relatable tale for women around the world. A story that is at once truly Nigerian and undoubtedly global.

[Ogadinma is] a story that is at once truly Nigerian and undoubtedly global.

In countries like Nigeria, gender and race don’t necessarily intersect and impact women’s lives in the same way as in majority white countries. What does intersect and negatively impact women’s lives, however, is gender and class, and the author reminds us of that, throughout this novel. While Ogadinma suffers because of her father’s lack of status and money, her counterpart, Ifeoma, for example, is allowed to live a relatively freer life because her family background is more secure. While looking at the role of class in Nigerian society, ‘Ogadinma’ aptly charts the well-known story of gendered oppression and female awakening and resistance in a beautiful, readable, and empathetic way.

The protagonist is an irresistible heroine, who morphs from being an abused young woman into an independently thinking woman, who has had enough and decides to take matters into her own hands.

[…] this novel not only delivers a searing account of women’s lives and treatment in a patriarchal society, but also bite-sized history lessons on Nigeria.

Her story unfolds against the troubled years of military dictatorship in the 1980s Nigeria, and memories of the civil war just over a decade before. Thus, this novel not only delivers a searing account of women’s lives and treatment in a patriarchal society, but also bite-sized history lessons on Nigeria. It is quite a task for a writer to make sure the historical background doesn’t drown out the story (and vice-versa), but Ukamaka Olisakwe effortlessly manages to highlight both a troubled past and present, while telling a grippy story.

In this novel, African feminism and the ruthless exposing of the damaging impact of patriarchy on women creatively and inextricably co-exist against the examination of the historical background in which the story unfolds.

‘Ogadinma’ is an impressive coming-of-age story that offers valuable social and historical insights into a society that has been described and defined through stereotyped or distorted narratives for too long.

This is a moving and extremely pertinent book that I’d recommend to anyone to read – or, it is yet another testament that Nigerians just know how to write.