Genre Fiction: Short stories. Poetry.
Blurb “Kasali Adebayor, a prominent farmer in the city of Akure, a husband of five wives, fancies himself as an activist for good governance while wielding the big stick of patriarchy over his family members. In the fast changing African political landscape Kasali’s family comes under the spotlight; an exposure which – initially appealing and addictive – threatens everything he holds dear and secret. Kasali’s daughter who has been a secret rebel in her father’s Akure enclave visits her aunt in Monrovia, gets drunk on her freedom, and is soon caught in the web of violence that engulfs Liberia’s Glay presidency. Kasali Adebayor, weak against the subtle feminism-inspired request of his of beloved wife Mojisola, ends in a dead end that brings out the worst in him, and begins the end of Kasali’s Africa.”
Dialogue Well written in English and smatterings of Yoruba.
Themes Convention and rebellion, Role of religion, Family, Ambition, Individual vs society, Female roles and Power of tradition.
Editing Some copy editing errors.
Plot A collection of 23 short stories and 5 poems linked to an enigmatic farmer, Kasali Adebayor, his family and his community. He has been burdened with fame and expectations. As a result of his own choices, Kasali begins to unravel.
What worked? Feyisayo has used his creative licence to put this book together. It is an unusual book, one that almost defies categorisation. A hodgepodge of different literary styles – poetry, prose and interviews, cast against the faint backdrop of a Nigeria ruled by the military. This may at first, confuse the reader as the blurb makes you expect a continuous story about Kasali, and the titles of the short stories sometimes suggest other authors. However, as you read on, it begins fit together like a puzzle. Different perspectives introduce us to the man, Kasali in the first few stories then subsequent stories describe his community punctuated with Kasali’s own stories.
Feyisayo’s decision to make this book a collection of short stories rather than one continuous story was a good one as it made the otherwise difficult read, punchier but it also had its drawbacks. The stories have one thing in common other than being connected to Kasali, the endings are abrupt which we think worked. These short stories can be read independently but they achieve a purpose together by the end of the book.
The first story, Day of the Dog introduces the central theme that runs through the book which is the tensions between the Old World and the New. Brilliantly written in the first person, it charts the journey of man’s best friend from loved family member to delicious delicacy. It set a bar the rest of the book struggled to meet. This story reminded one of Longthroat Memoirs by Yemisi Aribisala. Nigerians who don’t eat dog meat thumb their noses at those who do. In her book, Yemisi accepted the hypocrisy of determining which animal to eat or not based on “random parameters such as the animal’s intelligence, affability to humans and hygiene.”
The second story, The Interview felt like agenda setting; Kasali is eccentric but don’t dismiss him as an illiterate with no sense. However, this quote, “[c]hange for the better is the only wise change; not just change for the sake of change!” is apt to describe the current socio-political situation in Nigeria. Nigerians will understand and relate to this quote.
The third story, Meet the Adebayors is a narration by Bisola, one of his daughters. This quote by her kind of sums up this book, “he is never ashamed of raising the banner of his culture even when its absurdities stand against the dynamics of the new state of things. The unbridled advance of western civilisation, Kasali would tell you, has its peculiar absurdities too. Interestingly, I agree with him.”
Kasali’s Love (fifth story).
Lady B This book is one of the most difficult books to review, perhaps in part because it tries to be all things at once. Kasali, for instance, is beautifully developed; so much so that you’re able to predict his reactions when he’s placed in the most random, outlandish situations. No other character – not his wives, children or the army of antagonists that populate the book, get half as much attention. Well, apart from Kasali’s farm. And libido. And sexism. And disdain for education. And pride. And…you get the picture.
I was infuriated for most of this book. Kasali’s views were offensive from a women’s rights and children’s rights point of view. I am writing this under what works because it means that the book elicited reactions from me. I think it is worse when a book leaves one indifferent. The end was unexpected and fitting considering the rest of the book.
Mo Kasali, as I see it, is metaphorically the African man. Ambitious, unruly, enigmatic and everything in between. I must say that you get a better view of what and who Kasali is from the YouTube book trailers.
The book is punctuated with poems, the poems are nicely done. I think Feyisayo was aiming for a creative masterpiece, but it falls just short of that. There are times in the book where you see that Kasali’s character is meant to have a bit of humour to him but the humour just isn’t hitting the mark. One thing this book has going for it is that Feyisayo is a good writer, the flaw however is in its delivery and the fact that the plot isn’t fluid. This flaw, unfortunately, makes the book tedious to read.
The President of Liberia (eight story).
What didn’t work? Some stories were weak as part of the overall plot. For instance, the fourth story, A Date With Yinka Briggs, an interview of Professor Yinka Briggs. From it, we know that Kasali hit his wife (though his daughter already mentioned it in the third story, Meet The Adebayors). It seems it was there as a background to the sixth story, The Protest, a protest organised by Professor Briggs. The protest was bizarre, it was based on an allegation that Kasali hit one of his wives even though the wife in question denied (even to members of her family) that he hit her. It seemed far fetched that an organised protest would be done based on this and other unproven allegations against Kasali.
This issue of plausibility trailed this book in other stories like News From Liberia. What are the odds that a random farmer, wealthy or not will be able to get the Governor of his State in the early 1990s to give him a number for then Head of State, General Ibrahim, Babangida to rescue his daughter stranded in Liberia?
Other stories seemed rather pointless as part of the overall plot of the book. For instance, the sixteenth story, Moment of Decision. Kasali’s wife, Mojisola goes to see her ex but ends up not sleeping with him. This didn’t further the plot in anyway.
Some stories seemed to be pushing Feyisayo’s views on politics- The Debate; and religion – I’ve Been There and comes across as though he had an agenda (or certain views on politics and religion) then set out to write stories around them.
The writing is admittedly ambitious, but at times dreary. One was also nonplussed by plot holes and plot devices inserted to conveniently tie up loose ends or advance the story past a detour into a dead end (read the book – the pun is intended).
Page numbers 277.
Publisher Lifescripts Publishing.
Damage N2,000 on Okadabooks.
Thanks to Feyisayo for giving us copies of this book for an honest review.