Disclaimer: I completed this review more than a year later and it’s very likely I may have forgotten specific events in “Under The Udala Trees”. However, my overall feeling and thoughts on the novel as when I read the book remain the same.
Under The Udala Trees by Chinelo Okaparanta
Publisher: Kachifo Farafina
Release Date: 2016
Genre: Literary Fiction
Find It: Kachifo
Ijeoma comes of age as her nation does; born before independence, she is eleven when civil war breaks out in the young republic of Nigeria. Sent away to safety, she meets another displaced child and they, star-crossed, fall in love. They are from different ethnic communities. They are also both girls. But when their love is discovered, Ijeoma learns that she will have to hide this part of herself—and there is a cost to living inside a lie.
It took a ridiculously long time to write this review, mainly because I was swamped/lazy but procrastinating was easy because I couldn’t decide if I liked this book or not.
Ijeoma was really interesting to read as a child, using the word “interesting” sounds insensitive considering her childhood was devastated by the war. However, I enjoyed the way she made observations about people and that she was very self-aware of her place in the scheme of things.
By the time she hit her late-teens though, it felt like she lost her voice and morphed into a whole new being. Her tone felt detached and her vocabulary was just off (For want of a better word). This might have been an intentional switch by the author seeing as Ijeoma was struggling to come to terms with her own desires and what would make her mother happy.
As is more common than Nigerians would like to admit, Ijeoma ends up shelving her natural desires for the more “respectable” institution of marriage. She quickly becomes despondent and even her hard-nosed mother has to admit that the arrangement wasn’t working.
Finally, the role of religion in Ijeoma’s coming of age is noteworthy. Frankly, I felt the author reaching several times to place the Christian Bible against same-sex relationships. I’m not naive, I’m well aware that religion isn’t very tolerant on this subject but I feel a number of quotes were taken wildly out of context.
Honestly, I can’t say with this book. It’s a good story but I just wasn’t into it. Would I recommend it? Sure, just because it was interesting taking a peek into what living while homosexual in Nigeria means.