Blurb “On a hot Sunday afternoon years ago… …Two sisters walk in on their father’s sexual liaison with the family’s hired help which leaves them both scarred in different ways. Years later… Unable to bear the thought of marriage to a man she barely knows, the younger and more adventurous one, Munachi, runs away from home on the eve of her traditional marriage, unwittingly resurrecting a long buried feud between her religious mother and eccentric aunty. This conflict leaves a door open for the family’s destruction. The Domestication of Munachi is a novel about the unnecessary pressure on women to take on life partners, regardless of who these partners are and the psychological impacts seen through the stories of two sets of sisters—Munachi and Nkechi versus Chimuanya and Elizabeth.”
Dialogue Relatable. Written in English and Nigerian lingo.
Themes Family—blessing or curse, power of tradition, self-preservation, domestic violence, materialism and self-discovery.
Editing A number of errors.
Plot Munachi, a woman in her mid twenties runs away from home on the day of her traditional marriage to Obiora. The marriage was arranged by her parents. Not only does Munachi not find Obiora attractive, her sister, Adanna, is a victim of spousal abuse. Coupled with her parents’ loveless marriage, Munachi questions the desirability of marriage. She runs away to Lagos to live with her aunt, Chimuanya who is unmarried and childless. Thereafter, Munachi receives counsel from her aunt and her aunt’s friends on the best way to become quickly successful in Lagos. Their advice leads to consequences which they didn’t envisage.
What worked? This is an enjoyable story which focuses on four characters: Munachi, Adanna—her sister, Elizabeth—her mother and Chimuanya—her maternal aunt. The author narrates Munachi’s point of view in the first person, while other characters, Adanna, Chimuanya and Elizabeth are narrated in the third person. The story has unexpected turns which keeps the reader engaged to the end. The author employs vivid descriptions and flashback as techniques to tell the story.
The book shines the spotlight on several societal issues.
- It highlights the different socio-cultural pressures women face in domestic relationships. Adanna suffers domestic violence in her marriage, yet she stays with her husband and even covers up for him. Her parents are aware of this but do not intervene as they do not want the stigma of her returning home. There’s an unexpected turn to Adanna’s story, which was the high point of the book, as the reader will not see it coming and it introduces an interesting angle, though this is not fully explored.
- Societal expectation and pressure on women to get married is also explored as it affects all four main characters. Adanna’s education is truncated when she marries as a third year medical student and her husband, Emeka asks her to quit school as it will interfere with homemaking. The desire to marry Munachi off is what leads to the arranged marriage by her parents which she subsequently runs away from. We also see how the pressure affected Elizabeth and Chimuanya as young adults, with Elizabeth settling for an ex suitor of Chimuanya and Chimuanya leaving home to get away from her overbearing mother, also bent on marrying her daughters off. Chimuanya is ridiculed for being single at 51 despite her financial success compared to Elizabeth, her older sister.
- The author also writes about religion and its role in the life of the characters. She contrasts between denominations of the Christian faith. Munachi considers how different her Orthodox church in the village is from her aunt’s Pentecostal church in Lagos. The story highlights the hypocrisy and double standards in both churches.
- Lastly, the author writes about marital infidelity in society. As girls, Adanna and Munachi walk in on their father having sex with their housemaid and this incident scars them for life. Yet, in Lagos, driven by her aunt, Munachi must go against her own principles to make money quickly by becoming a mistress of a married man. But the author tells the story without making judgment calls.
Munachi seems too naïve for a woman in her mid twenties who has been through a university system. So much so, we considered whether we could refer to this as a coming of age book. Still, the author somehow pulls it off.
Whilst the title is the domestication of Munachi, the story rather suggests the “unleash the dragon” of Munachi. However, the title is apt as one would see by the end of the book. We found the end satisfying. Everything doesn’t fall into place as you would find in most books but there are some resolutions and realisations, just as one would find in real life.
What didn’t work? The main issue with this book is the editing. The blurb states that Munachi ran away on the eve of her traditional marriage whereas, in the story, she left home on the morning of the wedding. Also, Adanna is referred to as Nkechi in the blurb. Mo was so confused when she saw the name Nkechi in the blurb, after reading the book, that she went back to check the book to be sure! Competent editing would have picked up on this and other typographical and grammatical errors (including missing words) in the book.
The writing style is very relaxed, so relaxed that sometimes, the author lapses into Nigerian lingo such as nylon bag for polythene bag and dada hair for dreadlocks. This is the author’s first published book, so one hopes the writing/narration improves in subsequent works.
Page numbers 308.
Publisher Parresia Books an imprint of Parresia Publishers.
Damage N500 on Okadabooks.
Read excerpts of The Domestication of Munachi here.
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