Book review | No Longer at Ease by Chinua Achebe

Book: No Longer at Ease
Author: Chinua Achebe
Reviewer: Nana Sule

If you were among the many that wondered what became of Okonkwo’s family after he hung himself in Things Fall Apart, then wonder no more. And no, this is no longer about sacrificing an adopted son, evil forests, wrestling, wars and conquering villages, it is about a time from a bit more present.

The descendants of the great Okonkwo find themselves as a devoted Christian father and a well-learned son. Obi Okonkwo is the name of the grandchild of the late Okonkwo of Umuofia. He is the first person from Umuofia to cross the seas of Nigeria into the great England. Sent from a loan contribution by all the households in Umuofia to study law, Obi returns to Nigeria, an English graduate and in love with an Osu.

Although the people of Umuofia are ready to condone the change of profession, and even give him all the time in the world to repay the loan, what they would not condone, is an outcast, marrying their very own son of the soil. And because Obi is driven by the need for reform, and the zeal to not conform, he takes none of that. Driven by his need to prove himself right, he losses himself in the ocean that is the life of a non-conformist in a Nigerian society.

Set in Lagos, in a time over a decade ago, it is important to note how the circumstances defining society, attitudinal patterns and general perceptions have not changed as much. So many sentiments still play a role in how activities are carried out in the country. This in turn births expectations. Where these expectations are unmet, it frustrates one into decisions that could prove disastrous.

A young man returns from studies, gains a job and automatically is leveled with so much expectations from his community. Asides the study loan he needs to pay back, he takes on family responsibilities, is expected to attend communal gatherings, smile where he is offended and forever thank the gods and his community men for the grace of education.

When choosing a spouse, he falls for an outcast- an osu. Although his Father, as we remember from Things Fall Apart had since chosen the Christian way of life where everyone is one blood and the child of God, he refuses to see why his learned son should marry an outcast. Perhaps this finally pushes his mother to her grave. It is why he splits from his fiancée eventually.

The illusion of certainty of finance is what drives men to their graves. In this case, it is what builds a prison cell for Obi. It is the expectations, the losses and the frustration that comes with balancing imagination with the reality of the country that inevitably leads him down the path of many. Yet only amateurs get caught in the web of bribery and corruption.

And so it happens that a promising young man earns himself a gloomy future.

However, what we should ask as a generation, is, if as a county, we are getting any better or if we are as stagnant as we were years ago.