“As far as there is life, there is hope.”
Thank you very much to Chioma Nnani and The Fearless Storyteller House Emporium for providing a copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.
Ifechidere is a thought-provoking novel that instantly grips the reader’s interest through its brutal storyline and frank writing.
The novel follows Ifechi, a sweet nine-year old girl who lives with wicked aunt and uncle after the death of her parents’ years earlier. Ifechi is treated little better than a slave: if she does not complete her “chores” on time, she is gleefully punished by her sadistic aunt. But Ifechi is loved by some in the community, including Ifechukwu, the headmaster at the local school. It is through Ifechukwu’s love and guidance that Ifechi is able to escape her uncle’s cruel home and enter the world of education to make something of herself. Ifechidere is no modern-day Cinderella, but her faith and her belief in a better life drives her towards a happier life.
What stands out immediately is how vicious the plot of Ifechidere is. Enechi’s forthright discourse allows for the dark tone of the book to distinctively stand out. The novel begins with sitting outside of her uncle’s home, waiting in the rain for them to return home and trying to care for her younger cousin crying inside the home. When her aunt, Ogolo, returns home, she beats Ifechi for “bewitching” her son and, the following day, wakes Ifechi by throwing urine over her.
If you are soft of heart, and can’t abide reading about terrible things happening to children, you might struggle with Ifechidere. I certainly struggled for most the book, but it was still heartening to see Ifechi eventually make something of herself. I was on the verge of tears reading about how excited she was on the journey to Enugu, believing something so ordinary to be extraordinary.
While Ifechi is the main protagonist, the novel is as much her cousins’, Onukwabe and Afoma, story as it is Ifechi’s. Onukwabe, after the karmic death of his parents, attempts to steal from the community and is banished from the town. He turns to a life of crime and starts his own gang, remnant of Robin Hood – stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. Afoma gets her law degree and eventually seeks out Ifechi. Ifechi and Afoma were uplifting characters and worthy role models, able to utilise their education to make a comfortable, prosperous, and happy life for themselves.
I was surprised by how much I came to like Onukwabe’s character. Certainly, at the beginning of the novel, I despised him, along with his parents, due to the way they treated Ifechi. But the further the story developed, the more I warmed to him. His story ends tragically but it was hopeful, too, in how much he achieved considering his life of crime.
Faith is the strongest element of the novel. Each character believes in a higher power and the importance of living one’s life according to their god and for goodness. Some characters’ struggle with this, with faith and living a righteous life, but find their way eventually through love and acceptance.
The novel did struggle with the development of the plot. The scenes did not flow accurately; rather they felt jagged and unarranged. Sometimes it was difficult to comprehend what was taking place and at which time, as scenes from the past would suddenly appear in the present. Occasionally, this would affect my emotional connection with the text, as I would reread a passage a few times, but I was generally able to enjoy my reading experience for a majority of the novel.
Overall, Ifechidere was a harsh but hopeful novel. The book challenged my perceptions of African culture, as well as the role of women within the community.