Title: Bury Me Come Sunday Afternoon
Author: Nike Campbell-Fatoki
Publisher: Quramo Publishing
This collection of short stories is as enjoyable as it is powerful. I attended her book reading and signing event at Patabah Books a couple of years ago. Learning about her inspiration, background and the stories behind her stories before reading them brought on a more profound meaning.
The variety centres on the lives of Nigerians home and abroad, the longing for old memories is existing with the pull of the foreign land. The stories are split between the immigrant experience; from the tumultous to the mundane; and the joy and troubles of living in a country like Nigeria. She fluidly paints many ways in which home and abroad are different and yet so similar The book is laced with humour that relieves the reader’s heart of some of its weight.
Moral dilemmas are presented in a way we can associate with, a sort of mirror for our own situations. Thus, we understand the characters’ struggles without judgement.
Familiar everyday scenarios brought to life in this book include rebelling against an overbearingly strict Pentecostal father, the public transport system and underworld in the sprawling, unforgiving city of Lagos, mental illness and a patriarch exacting posthumous revenge on his uncaring family through his will.
But it does make us stop and tell ourselves, the negative things need not be part of life.
Others are green card fraud, learning disability, nosy neighbours, rosy teenage love soured by pregnancy and family disgrace, domestic violence and how women continue to condone it for the sake of the children seeing it a necessary part of life. They make a life facing off blows and yet remain resilient and in some cases, even triumphant.
But it does make us stop and tell ourselves, “The negative things need not be part of life”. We can identify secondary characters who, in their own ways, change the status quo for better.
One of my favourites is A Brewing Storm. Nestled in the middle, narrated with the innocence of a child’s perspective, it explores domestic violence with brave depth , elicits a sense of shame that we as a society have allowed this evil to go on for far too long. The physical and psychological pain, the constant inching to the precipice of death by the hand of a husband, the scars on the children’s psyche all clutch at your heart strings.
Worst of it for the character is the support system of close women (victims themselves) who accommodate her and the kids after each beating. They tell her there is no other way but to endure it. She must maintain the worth accorded to her in the society, the value that comes with being in a man’s house.
There is a remarkable finesse to which Campbell-Fatoki delivers this and the wider societal norms set against women. We see how women (like mother-in-laws) are complicit in this. This chapter is not written as funny. Even as she plays with friends, the fear of her mother’s death is palpable in the child’s consciousness. In a fitting climax, a battered woman and her kids take different desperate stands to protect themselves from an abusive man of the house.
But we also learn that it is and should not be the norm. This was beautifully written about in Searching For Miss Anderson. A woman living with schizophrenia from her teenage years finds unwavering support, the most she’s ever had, in her husband. He stays by her side, actively involved in her long winding recovery process. Happy marriages resplendent with mutual love and respect, providing a safe space for nurturing children is possible and do exist. That balance is necessary, a true depiction of reality
Happy marriages resplendent with mutual love and respect, providing a safe space for nurturing children is possible and do exist.
The Rake and the Wallflower, set in the seventies, details the discrimination people with learning disabilities face in an engaging story about a Nigerian girl who is married off to a man she knows only through a photo in. Abuse and restrictions follow as soon as she lands in America. Doubly due to the norms of the time that said he could treat his wife anyhow but also because he considered her a retard.
People treat those with learning difficulties with condescension often forgetting that they have thought processes and register all of it. It is a brilliant story. It was heartwarming to see this woman escape the horrific domestic situation with the help of her neighbour, a lovely American old lady and her father back at home who never considered his daughter as any less than others.
In all, in presenting what we recognise, in the laughter and tears it evokes, Bury Me Come Sunday Afternoon calls us to answer deep moral questions. I appreciate its dedication to family which is present as a common thread throughout. Beneath the hilarity and resonance of the tales is a call to us to keep enjoying what is good about us but commit to rectifying the many faults we have as individuals and a society at large.
What are your thoughts about this book?