The Joys of Motherhood, by Buchi Emecheta
I've never read a Buchi Emecheta novel before. It was recommended on Celestine's blog, Reading Pleasure, so I picked it up as part of my prospective summer reading.
A young mother, mad with grief, runs away from her home to kill herself by jumping off a bridge...
And then the story goes back 25 years to tell the story of Nnu Ego's life, starting with her mother's story. Nnu Ego grows up as the favorite daughter of her eminent father, and he wants a good marriage for her, but she doesn't get pregnant and eventually her husband shoves her aside. Nnu Ego is sent to the big city of Lagos to marry another man, who she desperately hopes will give her children.
Emecheta writes ambiguously, both defending and critiquing traditional Ibo ways. Nnu Ego lives by them strictly, but comes to question her life and wonder if she will ever be free. Everywhere she turns, she is chained by obligation, rules of status, and by her own great and determined love for her children, but the rewards are meager at best.
As I read, I was struck several times by the similarity between the events of this novel and the actual events in the life of Mark Mathabane as he tells them in Kaffir Boy. Very different countries, several decades apart, and a different level of violence, but similar themes of the slow collapse of African colonialism, older men lost in a fast-changing world, mothers determined to make their children's lives better, and the children who grow up to an utterly different life.
A really good novel. I'll have to look for more Emecheta books.