I am super excited to share this review, which I discovered via Holland House Books. It is an incredibly unusual novel but that should not take away from its emotional narrative. If Timothy Ogene decides to re-write the phone book, I would buy it because I am 100% certain he could turn it into a beautiful tale.
The Day Ends Like Any Day by Timothy Ogene
In the slum they call The Blocks, growing up is a strange affair…
Sam, a young Nigerian whose father only speaks to the children once he has taken on enough alcohol, and whose mother
won’t accept that Sam is different from his siblings, is formed by the people he meets, the gay young man he cannot rescue from his tormentors, the girl whose rapist escapes when the women of the block march to mete out justice on him; and Pa Suku, a strange figure who opens Sam’s eyes to books and music, poetry and jazz. Then Sam goes to college and confronts his own sexuality, his own lack of belonging.
The Day Ends Like Any Day is the lyrical, challenging account of the multiple lives of a young Nigerian who refuses to accept that he has been shaped by the traumas of his past.
I routinely seek out novels with, either a writer or a protagonist, from an entirely different walk of life to me. This novel could be classed as both. It is a fictional memoir style novel with hidden depth.
The novel opens up, with Sam the protagonist growing up in poverty at the block, in 1990’s Nigeria. There’s no electric, over-flowing latrines and an air rife with mosquitos. Sam lives with his four siblings, brothers Kor Leab and Pan and sister Rica. They have a 7km walk to the local state school and will receive 15 stroke of a cane/whip if they arrive late. When they finish school for the day and as they make their long journey home in tattered uniforms. They watch the privately educated children pour out of the school opposite. A school untouched by the harshness of poverty.
When Sam befriends local man Pa Suku on a lone walk home from school one day. He opens up Sam’s mind to a world previously unknown to him. The world of literature, art, Jazz and philosophy. Pa Suku is rumoured to me a local ‘mad man’ forcing me to ask myself, why do people confuse freedom of thought with mental illness. To see the world truly as it is, does this make one insane?
“An unfinished thought, is as dangerous as a child left to grow wild, without a sense of right and wrong”
Sam begins to express a desire to study history and English, which has his mothers disgust. With an also absent father via way of alcohol. Pa Suku becomes Sam’s path to enlightenment. There are a series of passages and quotes I would love to share but this would create spoilers. One of my favourites was the theory of ‘the privilege of distance’ in relation to the theme of betrayal. There is a painful scene towards the end, of rejection by Sam’s childhood friend Steve. I could literally feel the tears burning my eyes. Throughout the novel Sam is conflicted with his sexuality and this intensifies his feelings of rejection. The scene at the very end and the final few sentences provides much food for thought!
I believe this was the authors intention and it is executed beautifully with his writing style.
The novel has a real ‘coming of age’ feel to it and I think would make a fantastic novel for young students to read and debate. It offers the reader the opportunity to glimpse into a different world and a different form of life experience.
I would hazard a guess that I am of a similar age to the author. I am also from a large family, I have five brothers (one of which, is an out and proud gay man!) and two sisters. We were not raised in poverty, nor were we raised in considerable wealth. But one thing our parents did instil in us all, was the true value of things and by this I mean, we may never be rich, from a financial point of view. But with each other and the true acceptance of one another by way of unconditional love. We are richer than we can ever imagine! With that I shall leave you with my favourite quote within the novel.
“I would rather die poor than become someone else”
An incredibly moving novel, that will leave the reader pondering their own life journey and aspirations.
The writing is unique, beautiful and extremely emotionally intelligent. 5*
via publisher: http://www.hhousebooks.com/out-now/the-day-ends-like-any-day/