Warning: This review includes spoilers.
There’s no such thing as a perfect story. To the writer, there is; to his audience, not quite so.
#SectorIV is set against the backdrop of the Civil War era in South East Nigeria—Nchara to be precise. The book opens with a festive scene that quickly turns sorrowful. The main character, Onyinyechi is being prepared to be married off—to a man of her choice—only for the news of his death to be broken to her family by his younger brother, right before the marriage procession begins. Onyinyechi is devastated, but her woes have just begun.
Abigail Anaba’s protagonist, Onyinyechi, finds out she’s pregnant for Duke, the man she was supposed to be getting married to but who is now dead. This discovery brings to the fore the marital problems of her parents, Da Rofina and James. Her father James, tired of living in a loveless/unfulfilled marriage and an imposing wife, decides to join the Biafran army. Her mother, Da Rofina, a dominating character of some sort more interested in protecting her image and that of the family from the shame a pregnant and unmarried daughter would bring, decides to marry Onyinyechi off as a second wife to a childless suitor.
Okwuduwa, the richest man in Nchara is married to Ogechi. Okwuduwa’s marriage to Ogechi has failed to produce a child. After hearing the news of Duke’s death, Okwuduwa sees an opportunity to finally marry Onyinyechi, having been the girl he had initially wanted to marry.
Okwuduwa makes spirited efforts in making his intention known to her parents, and Da Rofina, seizing the opportunity, reveals to a shocked Okwuduwa that Onyinyechi is pregnant and as such he should hasten and take her as a wife. This way she gives birth while being married thereby saving Okwuduwa the shame of not having a child and Da Rofina the shame of having a pregnant and unmarried daughter at home.
The author is able to stealthily bring to the readers’ consciousness the predicament of couples in Eastern Nigeria—or Nigeria as a whole— when it comes to child bearing and the sex of children.
“James is not really a happy man. He had never expected that he will have just one child let alone a girl”
“Perhaps, if he wasn’t married to Rofina, he would have secretly got a love child and it may as well have been a boy”
It can be seen that the birth of Onyinyechi helped contribute to the breakdown of affection in the marriage between Rofina and James, while also ‘taking something out of his (James’) manliness’ thereby leaving him feeling unfulfilled. It is this self-disappointment and sense of un-fulfilment that creates that false sense of patriotism in him, leading him to enlist in the Biafran army—this was his way of regaining his manliness and self-pride: “James knew he could no longer postpone this call of duty. At least this would be one way of proving himself a man and from what he had learned, a good way of freeing himself from Rofina.”
In another instance, one can see how the inability of Okwuduwa’s union with Ogechi to produce a child leads to their marriage being more of endurance than of happiness—it wouldn’t be out of place to link this to the death of Ogechi.
In Abigail Anaba’s first attempt at writing a novel, she succeeds in circumventing logorrhoea; something that has affected even the most experienced of writers. The ability of the author to predict the readers’ thought and write accordingly is fascinating—it is the fascinating ability that has made it possible for her to know when to adopt circumlocution and when not to.
#SectorIV shows the capability of Abigail to seamlessly transition characters, seamlessly transition between breaks and scenes, raise suspense level and break it without giving the reader the opportunity to guess an outcome. There is a visible attempt by the author to minimise stray characters; everyone had a story within the story—thereby keeping the reader focused and eager.
“The soldier watches Agu try to calm the baby for a few more moments and then raises his gun…” Instances like this, where Abigail succeeds in tricking the reader into making wrong judgement on an outcome, by her use of words and imagery, is pure class.
It is wonderful how the author contemporaneously portrays the cognate thoughts of the characters. The manner in which the author keeps the memory of Duke alive in the sub-consciousness of the reader by using Onyinyechi’s thoughts and memories of him, helps prepare the reader for the end—which in its own world is every letter of the word ‘UNPREDICTABLE’
#SectorIV is a novel about a young girl whose fantasy of life has been cut short by a civil war. Stuck with the memory of a dead lover, her young son and a caring husband on a perilous journey of survival—Onyinyechi comes out standing.
Abigail Anaba has created art with words. Something that can be compared with Ngugi Wa Thiongo’s Devil on The Cross and Sembene Ousmane’s Money Order and White Genesis.
If there’s anything #SectorIV can be critiqued for, uneventful and prolixity won’t be a part of it.
– You can pre-order Abigail Anaba’s Sector IV HERE.
Saatah Nubari is a public affairs commentator. He tweets from @Saatah.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.