The Mechanics of Yenagoa by Michael Afenfia

The Mechanics of Yenagoa

Genre Fiction.

Blurb ‘Ebinimi, star mechanic of Kalakala Street, is a man with a hapless knack for getting in and out of trouble. Some of his troubles are self-inflicted: like his recurring entanglements in love triangles; and his unauthorised joyriding of a customer’s car which sets off a chain of dire events involving drugs, crooked politicians, and assassins. Other troubles are caused by the panorama of characters in his life, like: his sister and her dysfunctional domestic situation; the three other mechanics he employs; and the money-loving preacher who has all but taken over his home. The story is fast-paced with surprising twists and a captivating plot – a Dickenesque page-turner. This is Ebinimi’s story but it is about a lot more than him. It is an exploration of the dynamics between working-class people as they undertake a colourful tour of Yenagoa, one of Nigeria’s lesser-known cities, while using humour, sex, and music, as coping mechanisms for the everyday struggle. It is a modern-classic tale of small lives navigating a big city.’

Dialogue Written in English and Nigerian Pidgin English, the dialogue didn’t always ring true.

Themes Power and Corruption, Love, Infidelity, Greed, Family, Deceit, Role of Religion-Virtue or Hypocrisy, Individual vs Society, Technology in Society and Working-Class Struggles.

Editing Some errors.

Plot Ebinimi, a young man in his early thirties, runs a mechanic workshop in Yenagoa while also studying for a Master’s Degree. One day, he takes a client’s car without permission to school with one of his girlfriends and narrowly escapes getting killed in a case of mistaken identity. This sets off a chain of events that disrupts his otherwise peaceful though colourful life.

What worked?

This book is narrated in the first person by Ebinimi, the star mechanic of Kalakala Street, who is a very proud owner of a mechanic workshop. He takes us on a joyride through his adventures in his town, Yenagoa-the capital of oil rich Bayelsa State.

The Mechanics of Yenagoa was…interesting. How best to describe it? Well, if you’ve ever travelled Economy on British Airways, this book is that small bag of tasty but unsatisfying pretzels you get served with by unfriendly cabin crew.

A confusing, but totally implausible collection of short stories stapled together to form a book, this piece of literature manages to be entertaining without being fulfilling; interesting without ever quite becoming a great read. It is the literary equivalent of candy floss. We think it would work as a series on TV where one doesn’t have to think about any overarching plot. Perhaps, this explains why none of the themes outlined above were explored in-depth. Though, the fact that the themes were touched on without it being a social commentary is a plus.

Also on the plus side, was reading about the struggles of working-class people who weren’t quite destitute enough to fit into the poverty porn category. The book highlights political corruption in Bayelsa State and how it affects the lives of residents.

If you’re looking for a somewhat amusing book that won’t tax your brain cells, or if you’re stuck in Economy on a transatlantic flight in need of a distraction from the fear of plunging into the ocean, this book could serve that role. But please remember to suspend all disbelief; strap on your seat belt, and get ready for the most topsy-turvy, chaotic, plot-twist-gimmicky, crazy story you might have read recently.

What didn’t work?

The book started out so fast and dwindled in momentum. Michael knows how to write well enough but the life he breathed into Ebinimi was missing from his descriptions of every other person in the book, who all ended up being one-dimensional. Given a glimpse of his ability, it felt almost…lazy. This laziness of expression extended to his flat-soda description of Yenegoa and life in the city. We were interested in this book because we’ve never been to Yenagoa and it’s a city which doesn’t feature that much in Nigerian literature but we came away not knowing anything more about the city. The writer needs to learn that the environment a story is set in can be as important in telling a story as characters and dialogue.

The laziness might also explain the plot or lack of one. The main protagonist, Ebinimi, was always getting into the most outlandish situations, and being rescued by plot holes and plot armour nearly every single time. It robbed the reader of a sense of tension, as Ebinimi is never ever in any real risk, and by the end of the book, you stop caring for him and his antics. The part where he got out of the crowd renting gig for the flimsiest reason (well going by Nigerian standards, at least) was particularly annoying.

Some things didn’t add up in the story. For example, Ebinimi never seemed to have money except that which was paid by his politician oga. The mechanic workshop seemed to have a steady stream of clients and he did not have to pay rent so what happened to the money he earned from the business? Then there were loose ends with Ebiakpor and her unborn child and Benson and the circumstances surrounding his demise. Perhaps, a sequel…

Lastly, there were some avoidable errors in the book including mixing up words such as: deflate for deflect; highlighted for alighted and bulge for budge.

Number of pages 239 on Amazon Kindle.

Publisher Masobe Books.

Damage N3,500 on Masobe Books.

Rating 6/10.

The Mechanics of Yenagoa is available on Amazon and Masobe Books.

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