In a 1995 society devastated by protests and riots as a result of oil exploitation, environmental decay, and government’s disregard for human rights, Paul—the eldest of Bibi and Ajie, Bendic and Ma’s three children—goes missing.
Mr Pepple allowed some time to pass before he leaned over to the bottle on the tray before him. The man’s throat worked itself up and down as he swallowed another mouthful of the sweet, dark malt drink. Then he took a breather and rested the bottle on the tray. “Does he follow bad friends?” Mr Pepple asked.
“No,” Ma replied, “Paul is not like that.”
We have just started enjoying the tension and the drama from the condolers, when the narrator tells us that we would have to start from before Paul was born to tell Paul’s story. And so, a larger part of the novel covers a long ambitious journey of flashback—from the pre-colonial days, to the post Civil War depression, and to the Military dictatorship, and then, finally settling on what looks like a family drama—making the readers to completely forget that Paul is missing. And when the flashback finally ends, what is left of the plot is almost nothing. Short story sort of.
One thing that came to my mind while reading this book is Maya Angelou’s words: Easy reading is damn hard writing. This credit I must give to Ile. Not every writer will be willing to cut chunks of their book, due to the thought that it was painstakingly written. Not because it’s uninspiring. There is hardly a part of this novel I found boring.
I enjoyed the language, the narrative voice, so sweet, so human-like. Ile succeeds in feeding us with excellent details. Take this passage for instance:
Paul got up early, washed Uncle Tam’s car, swept the parlour, arranged the furniture, puffed the throw pillows, and arranged the headrest cover for the sofas. He took a shower and then sat in the dining area, quietly reading a book. Barisua scrubbed the bottom of the plastic drum, washed and polished the terrazzo floor, set the kettle to boil for tea, then scrubbed the toilet. At about nine o’clock, the sun heightened and threw a wider light about. The floors, the air, the walls, everything sparkled.
We are meant to understand that And After Many Days is a “novel of childhood, a profound story of life, loss and becoming,” from the eye of Ajie, but at a point, the story begins to read like the omniscient point of view, as if the narrator has forgotten its original plan. Thus, making Ajie to come to us like a long forgotten dream.