The Night Dancer by Chika Unigwe is a story about self-discovery, anger, betrayal and forgiveness. The novel is divided into three parts which explore the lives of Mma, Ezi, Mike and Rapu. The story focuses on a young lady, Mma, whose mother died leaving her with loads of unanswered questions, buried resentment and anger towards her mother’s perceived negligence and failure.
The novel explores the rich and intricate Nigerian belief system and tradition. Especially towards single parenthood and the preference for male children. This is a recurring theme in the novel:
“Yes, not even a man carved out of stone would turn away a son when his wife had only been able to give him a daughter”
“…One son is good but two makes your position unassailable. No one can question it.”
Mma’s mother, Ezi, singlehandedly raised her despite harsh criticism and discrimination from the society. She was treated “as though we had just escaped from the leper colony in Oji River and come to taint them all…”
Ezi represents the new generation of women breaking out of the archaic practices of women being second class citizens. She wais disowned, cursed and isolated because of her decision to raise her child alone. As “… there was no need for her to stay on in a marriage which no longer suited her just so she could lay claim to a husband. As for Mma not having a father, she would be that enough parent for two…”
The novel is written in the third-person omniscient and uses a non-linear narrative style. The use of Igbo phrases and proverbs gives the novel a rich cultural background. “Do you hear me? I na-egekwa m nti? Set in Eastern and Northern Nigeria during the 60’s till the early 00’s, the author’s inclusion of the religious unrest which spans Nigeria’s history, makes the novel historically grounded.
Overall, the novel is a good read. Although it takes a while to get a grasp on, I enjoyed every bit of it. Especially the artful use of suspense and the inclusion of history and Igbo phrases.
I had to do a little extra reading into the Kaduna crisis. So, not only is the novel entertaining, it is also educative.
Author: Chika Unigwe
Published by: Parresia Publishers Ltd
Date of Publication: 2013