When Niru’s father finds out that his son is gay he explodes ballistically and slams Niru’s head into the wall. If not for the timely intervention of his mother, Niru may have faced even more physical violence and injury. For Niru’s father, homosexuality is an abomination, however is it Niru that he is concerned about, or is it his own shame for siring a homosexual boy? Niru is firstly taken to Reverend Olumide at their local church. He sends them back to Nigeria to see the Bishop there. Here Niru is bombarded with religious dogma and upon arrival back in the States is seriously confused and messed up about his sexuality. Then he meets Damian. Niru is tortured with confliction. The thrill, the excitement, the love he feels with Damian, is dulled and tempered by Reverend Olumide’s rhetoric on eternal damnation. Right at the end of the book, the narrative changes to Meridith’s perspective, a character who is rarely seen throughout the book even though she is his best friend and secretly in love with Niru, This perplexing change attempts to address a completely new social issue, one that is deeply important and relevant to America at this point in time. For me this just does not work within the confines of this short novel and should have been left out. This novel main concern addresses a serious issue that is faced by many in society today. Homosexuality is not accepted in much of the world today. Same sex marriage was only just made legal here in Australia last year. There are quite horrifying and draconian sentences and punishments that exist today in parts of the world. If you are found to be gay in Nigeria you could face up to fourteen years in jail, that’s if you don’t get beaten to death by anti-gay thugs on the street. I did enjoy this novel but think that Iweala has slightly missed the mark. There was so much opportunity with this narrative, both as a love story and a powerful tool for attitude change. It could have been a great book instead of a good one. After reading this novel I was sadly reminded of how far we have come as a race but just how much farther we have to go to achieve a world in which sexual tolerance and freedom is the norm and not the exception. 3.5 Stars.
Uzodinma Iweala is a medical doctor of Nigerian decent. He is a truly gifted writer and his debut novel, BEASTS OF NO NATION, which was his thesis at Harvard is a book that I am very keen to get my hands on. It was turned into a film, which had success in 2015.He is currently the CEO and Editor-in-Chief of Ventures Africa, a print magazine and online magazine focussing on business in Africa.