Book review | Igoni Barrett’s "From Caves of Rotten Teeth"

Book: From Caves of Rotten Teeth

Author: A. Igoni Barrett

Publisher: Daylight Media Ltd. 2005

Reviewer: Nana Sule

From Caves of Rotten Teeth (Short Stories)

There are fourteen stories in this book. What each story does is not to immerse the reader in a world where he is marveled by some artistry, but to help the reader recognize their self in them.

The stories explore adultery, unemployment, poverty, violence and the everyday circumstances that can arise from living in Nigeria at this time. Although set in 2005, these stories are more a reflection of how sadly, as a nation, the country is still flying on sore wings.

While each story is written with careful narration, simple sentences and matching metaphors, They would be Swine is the one that hits home. Never had the Nigerian Police checkpoints and the simple waste of time and domineering nature of armed men been better portrayed. There, in that one narration, lay the summation of all that is wrong with a country. Yet if finding a child’s head at a police checkpoint doesn’t push you to read this book, you may perhaps be interested in what hunger does to Godiya as she breaks whatever virtue she holds dear to ensure food on her table in Domination.

Yet these aren’t why the stories in From Caves of Rotten Teeth stand out, it is because they are such sad stories written so beautifully, it makes terrible things seem so good. The Authors’ portrayal of Nigeria truly feels like it is a nation caught in jaws that are indeed rotting.

However, one little disappointment was the fact that the only story that truly explored a northern setting was, as expected narrated in the warm voice of a six-year old girl making a livelihood off strangers on the street. Perhaps there would one day be stories from the north where we don’t get to read as much stereotypes. Yet, giving the time this was written, perhaps it was a necessity, and perhaps it still is.

A. Igoni Barett has written two books after this; Blackass being one that has made him most recognizable amongst readers for its interesting plot. Yet his journey started with short stories and a BBC World Service Short Story Competition with The Phoenix; one of the fourteen in this collection. He has since been recognized at different times and platforms for his mastery with words.

From Caves of Rotten Teeth is one book that should be in your shelf and in your heart.


Nana Sule is a contributing writer at The Arts-Muse Fair. An Environmental enthusiast, her writings have appeared in blogs. She is the Coordinator of the Minna Book Club and tweets @izesule.