Book Review: Happiness Like Water by Chinelo Okparanta.


Review of Happiness Like Water by Chinelo Okparanta.

Here are Nigerian women at home and transplanted to the United States, building lives out of longing and hope, faith and doubt, the struggle to stay and the mandate to leave, the burden and strength of love.

Here are characters faced with dangerous decisions, children slick with oil from the river, a woman in love with another despite the penalties.

Here is a world marked by electricity outages, lush landscapes, folktales, buses that break down and never start up again.

Here is a portrait of Nigerians that is surprising, shocking, heartrending, loving, and across social strata, dealing in every kind of change.

Here are stories filled with language to make your eyes pause and your throat catch. Happiness, Like Water introduces a true talent, a young writer with a beautiful heart and a capacious imagination.

Book Details

Format: 196 pages, Paperback

Published: August 13, 2013 by Mariner Books

ISBN: 9780544003453 (ISBN10: 0544003454)

Language: English

My Review of Happiness Like Water by Chinelo Okparanta.

To be honest, I developed interest in this book merely for the fact that I heard one of the characters bears my name, Ezioma. But I enjoyed reading the stories regardless, because Chinelo is a fantastic story teller.

This book is a collection of ten short stories which tell tales about home, about the pursuit of happiness.

The female protagonists in the stories all must make great decisions to pursue and secure their happiness against all odds. But at times, their patterns of this pursuit are detrimental to other people.

Review of Happiness Like Water by Chinelo Okparanta.

In ‘On Ohaeto Street,’ a mother would cajole her daughter into marrying someone she doesn’t really want. When Eze, a young Jehovah witness, visits Chinwe and her mother to share the gospel, Chinwe’s mother is immediately convinced that he is the right fit for her daughter.

After all, he’s a young successful man with the fear of God, what better option than him? But Chinwe isn’t interested in Eze, she wants to be able to make her choice herself.

Review of Happiness Like Water by Chinelo Okparanta.

And even when they finally marry, she doesn’t enjoy marrying Eze. We later find out in the story that her mother simply does that, to feel at peace once more with herself and atone for what she did to a preacher in the past.

I enjoyed Chinelo’s narrative technique in this story. It is being narrated by someone whose identity won’t be revealed, till the end of the story.

In ‘Wahala,’ a young woman, Ezinne, experiences excruciating pains while having sex with her husband. Her mother, Nneka, will not fold her hands and watch while her daughter wallows in childlessness.

Therefore, they go to various places in search of healing. This story, like the previous one, highlights the selfishness of mothers, who wish to find their own happiness at the expense of other people’s own.

For them, if their daughters follow their instructions and accomplish their wishes, then they can be truly happy. But true happiness comes from within. It doesn’t depend on any external factor, and definitely not at the expense of others’.

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In ‘Story Story,’ Nneoma, would lure pregnant women into her life by starting conversations during Sunday service and afterwards going after their babies. She’s a primary school teacher who desperately wants to put an end to her lonely life.

Being devoid of a partner and child, she lives her life alone and sad, and then pursues her happiness at the expense of other peoples’. She narrates to a pregnant woman she meets in the church about her late friend, Ezioma, who dies during pregnancy. But what she fails to mention is her role in Ezioma’s death.

Review of Happiness Like Water by Chinelo Okparanta.

‘Grace’ is a story I thoroughly enjoyed. It is about a student in America, who falls in love with her female lecturer. Her family in Nigeria wants her to get married to someone she barely knows, because that is where their happiness lies.

But even if she protests, she knows no one will save her, no one cares about what she really wants. But in spite of the constraints and consequences, she goes ahead to fall in love with an elderly woman who is old enough to be her mother.

She knows that kind of love is unacceptable, but she decides to make her own happiness her priority. She decides to love the woman as hard as she can, even when she knows it won’t end well.

The final story, ‘Tumours and butterflies,’ a young girl would receive the news of her father’s thyroid cancer. She, herself, alongside her mom has been a victim of domestic violence.

Because even though they live in America, a place far away from home, her father still beats her and her mother up. And her mother, being a weak, considerate woman, who would rather protect her diabetic husband from serving a jail term, to speaking out and emancipating herself from the man’s brutality, insists on staying with him till her last breath.

Review of Happiness Like Water by Chinelo Okparanta.

One thing I admire about Okparanta’s storytelling is how simple they are, yet captivating and entertaining. The stories take us through the lives of characters in Nigeria to America, and back to Nigeria.

The pursuit of happiness is a ridiculous venture, because most times, people seek happiness in the wrong places. Happiness is innate, it is within. One doesn’t have to depend on external factors to feel happy. And definitely, one does not have to seek happiness at another person’s detriment. It’s a great book, and I’ll rate it as 4/5.

Have you read the book? What do you think about it? Please share your thoughts with me in the comment section. Don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter, follow me on all social media platforms and share with your friends. Thank you for visiting Bookish Pixie.

Happiness Like Water by Chinelo Okparanta.
Happiness Like Water by Chinelo Okparanta.

10 thoughts on “Book Review: Happiness Like Water by Chinelo Okparanta.”

  1. I’ve listened to the review of this book on a literature review radio program and for some reason they scored the book 6/10. They said the stories are somehow easily predictable. Good to read a different opinion on the book.

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