Book Review: Chuma Nwokolo Jr.'s 'Diaries of a Dead African'

by - 19:57

My sister recommended Diaries of a Dead African to me. It tells a story through 3 men's diaries. The men are Meme Jumai, a struggling farmer whose wife, Stella Jumai, has just left for the vulcaniser; his youngest son, Calamatus 'Calamity' Jumai, a con-man; and his oldest son, Abel Jumai, an aspiring writer.

Meme Jumai's wife left him with only 3 tubers of yam, and with 2 weeks to the harvest Meme Jumai's diary tells of his daily battle with his hunger and the measures he takes to deal with it. We also read how Meme Jumai feels about his poverty and the way his fellow villagers view him. 

Calamatus, unlike his father, has a lot of money and when he returns to the village from Warri, he does all he can to show that the name Jumai isn't synonymous with poverty. Yet, like his father, Jumai is unhappy with his life due to a mishap which occurred when he was a baby, which has left him bitter his entire life. 

Abel, is an aspiring writer who despises his father, resents his mother, and wants nothing to do with his brother's money. He has been unable to return to his village due to the lie his father once told, and been unable to marry his love due to his brother ruining the ceremony. This makes him even more adamant to secure a book deal, but like his father and brother before him Abel is unable to break from the destruction that befalls the Jumai's.

Nwokolo's characters all lead very sad lives, and they don't seem too happy about their situation either. Despite it all, there are elements of humour in the novel through the characters proverbs, sayings and the good ol' scam emails. Overall, I enjoyed the novel.

4 out of 5 stars. 

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