Nigerian writer Ukamaka Olisakwe’s upcoming novel, Ogadinma Or, Everythng Will be All Right does a thorough job of painting the different shades of patriarchy. Expected in June 2020 by the Indigo Press, the book is set in the 1980s Nigeria and chronicles the life of Ogadinma, a 17-year-old girl, whose dream of pursuing a university education gets thwarted by a rich lawyer.
From the start, Ogadinma seems to be at the mercy of the people and beliefs of her society. Her father, hoping that Barrister Chima would help the girl get admission into a sought-after university, ends up subjecting the girl to her first impediment. She gets raped by the powerful lawyer, who fails to use his ‘know-who’ status to get the girl into university anyway. Getting pregnant weeks later and procuring an abortion to the fury of her single father, Ogadinma, keeps sinking deeper into turbulent waters. Her naivety and obedience to the ingrained societal expectations of women, doesn’t help her case.
Familiar as Ogadinma’s experiences are, one can’t help but wish for the adversaries to get punished and for her to snap out of her naivety and exert agency. It’s not easy, considering that in Ogadinma’s world, it’s not only the men that enforce patriarchy. Ngozi, the wife of Ogadinma’s uncle for instance, plays matchmaker, hooking the girl up with her brother, Tobe. Eighteen years older than Ogadinma, Tobe’s temper fluctuates more frequently than the electricity outage in Lagos where they live. Ironically, Ngozi’s daughter, who is regarded a brat by society’s standards, is independent minded and puts a teacher in his place for making sexual advances at her. Ngozi’s son adores his girlfriend and espouses all virtues that the rest of the men in his era find unacceptable of true manhood, including cooking.
These characters give the reader the much needed hope that Ogadinma’s transformation will happen sooner than later; that she’ll pick a leaf from the good guys around her; or better, hold onto a branch of resistance for good.
But things take their time. By the time Ogadinma’s husband advances from verbal to physical assault—beating her into near miscarriage—the reader is tempted to surrender to this state of affairs. But it’s that near-death experience that gives her the final push to strike back. Fifteen chapters in, there’s a renewed desire and expectation for what actions the protagonist will take.
Ogadinma Or, Everything Will Be All Right, digs out a range of emotions—rage, expectation, admiration, admonition—which keep the reader turning page after page. The tale feels both historical and current, propelled by a steady narrative and characters that keep the reader hoping that everything will be all right.