Two gone, still counting. By Oyindamola Affinnih
Book Review by Peter Sunday
‘Not since The Concubine, by Elechi Amadi, the epochal novel in which the heroine is fated to serve as the source of death for her suitors has there been in African fiction a mythical cliff-hanger as Oyindamola Affinih’s heartrending Two gone---still counting’
Those were the words of Uzor Maxim Uzoatu in describing this author’s debut novel. He is right in comparing the novel to Elechi Amadi’s the concubine in that they both portray unfortunate heroines held captive by the potent mythical powers of superstition. But what makes this contemporary story different is its modern setting; its attempt to portray the 21st century Nigerian society, its poignant, feminist perspective and its depiction of the importance of class in a third world country.
‘Two gone---still counting is an illustrative tale of a young, Nigerian woman, who is trailed by a supposed African curse that supposedly kills men who marry her. Amani, the troubled heroine is a Nigerian who lived in England and later moved to Nigeria. While in London, she was told by her parents that she fell down from her mother’s back as a baby and so is fated to carry the curse unless her mother runs naked in the market. For her and many people of her generations, such dark fantasies belong to the realm of superstitions in the African culture. Yet she was surprised that many Nigerians actually believe in it. The superstition would come to haunt her later in life, long after her parents’ death, when she kept losing her spouses to death.
As profound as this theme is throughout the book, I have a feeling that this is not really what the story is all about. Beyond the potency of dark myths and superstitions, the book explores the power of societal forces in African societies and the negative power they can sometimes wield on individuals. Amani, the heroine was brought up with her brother in England by relatively affluent parents. When they move to Nigeria, her parents are gruesomely murdered by unknown people and that was how her world came crashing. The family bickered over her father’s property and tore the whole place apart. Her father’s cousin took over the house and made the children miserable. He later threw them out. The story explores Amani’s travails as she struggled bravely to rise beyond her misfortune and achieve success in a society that is sometimes exciting and yet sometimes hostile. She eventually attains success and yet the curse continues to trail her.
While the story is simple and interesting, it also provokes a deep thought in the reader concerning the effect of some values in African societies and whether they are not causing more harm than good to young women. The book is written from the first-person perspective, which makes it easier to see into the mind of the heroine. This causes the feminist views of the writer to be strongly evident. One doesn’t have to read between lines to recognise the heroine’s extreme feminist attitude and the first person narrative makes it easier to relate it with the author’s supposed views. Yet the author is not as guilty in this as Seffi Attah in her book, Everything good will come. Apart from the issue surrounding the myth, Two gone---still counting reads much like Everything good will come, only that one would be more inclined to like the heroine in the former better because of her suffering. Yet that doesn’t mean she is less arrogant.
In totality, the book is interesting, at least in my view more interesting than the average Nigerian novel. I like the contemporary English used in the book, it makes it fun reading it. I also like the way it depicts contemporary Nigeria and Nigerians. From the chaotic cacophony of Oshodi Oke to the posh serenity of Victoria Island, the author gives us something to laugh about Nigeria. It is an emotional story that would arouse the sympathy and sometimes anger of the reader, yet it is also full of funny dialogues that will bring laughter to one’s mouth. The cover is also colourful and the lettering big enough, making it even more fun to read. Yet I can’t resist the urge to poke fun at the author’s obsession with class. It was quite evident throughout the book. It’s a strong story but I can’t resist the cynical laughter that comes to me when I read feminist writers.
As for me, this is not bad for a debut, I enjoyed reading it, even while sipping Coca-Cola along.