Yejide Kilanko (left) and Beverley Nambozo Nsengiyunva
Daughters Who Walk This Path by Yejide Kilanko, is a book that will easily be celebrated by seekers of justice, because of its direct no-nonsense message. It’s unapologetic about the oppressors in a woman’s life. The imbalance in power is the main oppressor, followed by guilt, misplaced trust and silence. When Morayo and Morenike are raped by men in positions of trust, Bros T who is Morayo’s cousin and Chief Komolafe, a respected community leader, it is a shocking reminder of how our trust is replaced by fear, silence and guilt and our worlds cave in.
Morayo, a typical girl whose heart brims with hope, love and ambition is like the girl next door and remains so, even after the brutal rape. Morenike, more assertive, is more upfront, even though it took years, with dealing with the rape, which resulted in a child. They are each others’ pain relievers, which is never enough but their spirit does lend a little light in the depressing times of the novel.
Amidst the over-riding themes, there are delightful episodes of stolen kisses, childhood crushes, marriage between true loves and journeys that bring hearts together. It is this ability to knock down obstacles to true love that are Yejide’s other great gift as a writer.
The novel is arguably littered with clichés but the reason they are clichés is because they work. A woman’s story can never be told enough, neither will the horrors and survivals after rape, neither will the need for rapists to be apprehended with the full arm of the law. These stories, however many, must be told because every day there is a woman and a man who needs to read about it.
There are rich anecdotes reflecting Nigeria’s varied and complex traditions and histories. The ways in which this affects the contemporary life of a Nigerian girl are quite vivid and telling. Eniayo, Morayo’s albino sister, in the story, is a potentially interesting character, except when life’s gifts somehow fall at her feet. She marries the love of her life who had been pursuing her for ages, she gets great grades and is generally happy from beginning to end. Happiness is not a flaw but rather the plainness behind the happiness. The teasing about her skin condition could have been broadened and even without her, the story could possibly still remain as beautifully told.
Most of the men either play passive roles, oppressive roles or are there to serve the women but then again this could have been deliberate on the author’s part.
Farafina Publishers sought out a lively and dedicated story-teller and readers should look out for more of Yejide’s works. She has a novella, Chasing Butterflies and there is promise of another novel.
Reviewed by Beverley Nambozo Nsengiyunva, writer and of the BN Poetry Foundation.