After going through its two hundred and eighty-three pages, one could say that the author, Achalugo Chioma Ezekobe, set out to tell a story about animism in Igbo mythology in the novel titled – Mmirinzo: The ones who are rain.
Olivia, a lawyer in Lagos has been chosen from her lineage to bear the power of controlling rain. The story takes us through the troubles she faces until she accepts this responsibility.
A consideration of Chukwuemeka Ike’s 1985 novel ‘Bottled Leopard’ reveals a similar story – A young boy is chosen from his lineage to bear the power to control a leopard. Mr. Ike weaves a story that explores the many ways Igbo culture has been attacked by western beliefs, chief among them Christianity. And then, he makes a choice: He chooses to show that animism in Igbo mythology is not nonsense. A boy controlling a leopard is not a myth, just like Elisha controlling a she-bear is not a myth, we all have our gods. By choosing to explore the importance of myths to a culture, and weighing it against other myths, the author gives us a story that leaves us enriched.
Yet, he does not do this from a soapbox. No, using rich language and details, he shows us the power of our legends. How do we choose the stories we tell ourselves? How are those stories framed? Mr. Ike tells us – It is vital to consider how legends are created before discarding them.
Achalugo Ezekobe tells her own story. Using the story of Olivia, she tells us that there are people who have the ability to control rain and like us, they have jobs, friends, and difficult bosses.
Yet, in the end, we are left with questions.
When a Christian man like Bernard Okwesili is told that his daughter, a lawyer in a top Lagos firm, must return to the village to bear the mantle of rainmaker, what did he think of before making the decision to support her? What are the considerations he made? What does his wife think about it? When a Christian is asked to become a rainmaker, what do they say or do? Is there an internal battle? If not, why? What does that say about the person?
The choice Mrs. Ezekobe makes in not exploring these angles give us a feel-good story yet denies us a culturally enriching encounter.
When you consider the phrase in the book title – ‘The ones who are rain’ closely, it implies a distinction between making a thing and being that thing, between making rain and being rain. What is the difference? That void is sadly not explored in Mrs. Ezekobe’s debut novel.
In the last line of the prologue of Mmirinzo, Mrs. Ezekobe writes – ‘Olivia wondered if she was the girl, the woman and herself.’ We sense an outline of the past, present, future, and all that is in between, but that outline is not developed as the chapters progress.
We would have loved to read more about the inner turmoil, the considerations that guide the actions we see. We would have loved to delve into Afulenu’s life, a secondary school teacher, and an expert rainmaker. How she balances her two lives, what it feels like to be a guide, and what it feels like to be seen as a ‘witch’ in this new, Christian bastardization of the term.
A book can do whatever it likes, but it owes us characters that are simply not appendages. It owes us well-rounded characters, who walk a path and allow us in, not simply as bystanders, but partakers of their real fears.
Mrs. Ezekobe is a lawyer just like her protagonist Olivia, but unlike her protagonist, her gift is not of controlling rain, it is of weaving stories. Perhaps in her sophomore novel, she will weave a richer tale, that does not shy away from making a choice. A choice that will leave us her readers enriched.
You buy Mmirinzo in the following places:
Abuja: Bookmarketng – 08098826657
Lagos: Bookpeddlerng – 08095925561.
Anambra – 0703 388 8403 (call only)
Port Harcourt: Bookville World – 08165235460
Note: All the outlets apart from the Anambra outlet are on all social media with those handles.