Book Review: Ogadinma by Ukamaka Olisakwe.


Review of Ogadinma by Ukamaka Olisakwe

Ogadinma Or, Everything Will be All Right tells the story of the na├»ve and trusting teenager Ogadinma as she battles against Nigeria’s societal expectations in the 1980s. After a rape and unwanted pregnancy leave her exiled from her family in Kano, thwarting her plans to go to university, she is sent to her aunt’s in Lagos and pressured into a marriage with an older man.

When their whirlwind romance descends into abuse and indignity, Ogadinma is forced to channel her independence and resourcefulness to escape a fate that appears all but inevitable. Ogadinma, the UK debut by Ukamaka Olisakwe, introduces a heroine for whom it is impossible not to root, and announces the author as a gifted chronicler of the patriarchal experience.

My Review of Ogadinma by Ukamaka Olisakwe

For Ogadinma, the protagonist of this book, her teenage life is one sad tale, filled with trauma, sexual abuse, and violence. She grows up to resent her mother who abandoned her when she was a baby, but when she goes through her own terrible experiences, she finally understands and forgives her mother.

At seventeen, she is as ambitious as every other young girl who has dreams to study at University. But who knows one wrong move can change her entire life forever? Due to the political unrest in Kano, she desperately seeks admission into the University of Nigeria Nsukka in the Eastern part of the nation, because it would be safer for her to study there. And while she craves gaining admission into the den, (as UNN is popularly known) she literally walks into the lion’s den that’s Barrister Chima’s office. Barrister Chima is the self-acclaimed Messiah who would help her secure admission into the school because he knows somebody who knows somebody that will eventually include Ogadinma’s name in the admission list.

Review of Ogadinma by Ukamaka Olisakwe

But what Ogadinma doesn’t know is that she will be sexually abused and impregnated and her innocence stolen from her because of her quest for quality education. She literally visits hell and back as she aborts the baby and endures the excruciatingly devastating pain from the abortion, the trauma that trudges beside it, and the lashes her father rewards her with, after learning of the shameful act she has indulged in. And for all shameless girls, their fates are similar, they must be whisked away to another city to relieve themselves of their shamelessness.

And so, Ogadinma must go to Lagos, to aunty Ngozi’s house for her fate to be decided. When she meets Tobe, aunty Ngozi’s younger brother who is far much older than her, she is not sure if what she feels is love, or even if she is worthy of loving and being loved. What does she know? She is just a teenager who finds herself entrapped in misery.

She is simply a victim of circumstance, who would suffer as a result of that unfair circumstance her entire life. Because she doesn’t know what love feels like, she gets carried away by whatever Tobe dangles before her as love. And she desperately wants to be cherished, for Tobe not to leave her, so she has to endure the ugly side of him.

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Tobe is domineering, but she agrees to marry him regardless, as that seems to be her only way of salvaging her almost-wrecked relationship with her father. Her fate has already been decided. Since she has defiled herself, she doesn’t deserve to resist or ask questions if someone is interested in marrying her. The dream of being educated has long been buried and forgotten. Survival is currently the most important and realistic dream for her.

For someone whose name is an embodiment of things getting better, Ogadinma literally sees her ears with her eyes in the course of her existence, and with no hope of better days in sight. Her life experiences are similar to what most women endure on a daily basis. They are taught to remain calm in the face of abuse because it is better to save your marriage than leave it to crumble.

Review of Ogadinma by Ukamaka Olisakwe

Ogadinma is a heart-wrenching story that holds you spellbound from the beginning to the end. It’s a book that explores the sufferings of women in the face of misogyny, and why the narrative has to change.

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When I read this book, I was mad. How can life be cruel to a single human? She goes through the same heartbreaking experiences over and over again. After being sexually abused at seventeen, she marries a man who beats her to a pulp, who offloads all his anger and frustration and hurls them on her, even when she’s heavy with a baby. She has nobody on her side, not her father, not her husband, not even her aunty. If anything, her aunty blames her for not being submissive and for whining when her husband is frustrated with the happenings in the country.

The book is set in the 80s, during the military regime and political unrest in Nigeria. The government deals with saboteurs and rivals, and Tobe happens to lose his job because of the new government. He turns into a lion and devours Ogadinma any chance he gets. Ogadinma keeps enduring his abuse till one day she realizes that enough has been long overdue, packs her bags, leaves her baby, and absconds. Away from Tobe the devil, away from abuse and misery. Away from anguish and trauma.

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This book has a lot of annoying characters. First is Ogadinma’s father for not taking her side when she needed him the most. She is the victim, and the only person to be blamed is the rapist and never her. But at the end of the day, all blame is hurled at her while the victim walks away scot-free. She is damned to suffer for another person’s wickedness for the rest of her life.

Then I dislike aunty Ngozi, for being the catalyst of Ogadinma’s later problems. For forcing Tobe, her brother on the poor girl, when she’s aware of how horrible her brother is. She would have done better as an adult and as Ogadinma’s aunt. But she shoves her brother down her niece’s throat and forces them to get married even when she knows how disastrous that action of hers is. Even when Ogadinma complains, she scolds her for voicing her displeasure. She is a married woman and so it is her cross to bear. She even accuses her of being ungrateful. For not acknowledging every good thing Tobe does for her.

Review of Ogadinma by Ukamaka Olisakwe

Another character on my list is Tobe, for putting Ogadinma in a worse predicament than she has ever faced. For Ogadinma that wants redemption, someone to save her from her damaged life and fill the void of love in her, she literally jumps from purgatory to hell when she marries Tobe. Their marriage is worse than hell and for every pain, Ogadimma endures, I felt a bigger one in my gut. Why are people evil? Why must they put her through this misery? Why is no one on her side?

The part that wrecked me completely, is when they take Ogadinma to a prayer house for prayer and cleansing. She stayed in that torture establishment for days, and she faced the worst of her predicaments. She is also sexually abused by strangers who pose as men of God. There’s only so much a single human can take.

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I really do not wish to be in Ogadinma’s shoes, all that suffering, all that endurance, all that trauma. It’s a no-no for me. I love the fact that the book talks about so many sensitive topics at once. There’s the danger of sexual and physical abuse, the traumatic experience of rape victims, abandonment trauma, and then Feminism.

Ejiro, Ogadimma’s neighbor opens her eyes to the fact that a woman can exist and work hand in hand with her husband, and not cower in fear at the sound of the latter’s voice. She teaches her to stand up for herself and make a living for herself.

History also keeps repeating itself. For Ogadinma who suffers abandonment as a child, she also abandons her own kid when the sufferings become unbearable. Women should understand that their lives are their first priorities. No matter how good a man is to you, when he starts being abusive, leave. All you have in this life is your life and you must do everything to protect it, to live.

Also, toxic patriarchy should be scraped out of the earth’s surface. Because why should a woman be forced to shrivel and lose all her essence just to be with a man? Why must a woman endure all of a man’s excesses just to salvage their marriage?

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I really enjoyed this book, but not the ending, not what Ogadinma finally becomes. She makes a lot of poor choices too as a result of her traumatic experiences, but I don’t blame her. Because it’s easy to blame someone for making rash decisions without being in their skin and walking in their shoes. How will you know where the shoe pinches them if you’ve not walked in it yourself? I also loved the characterization and plot. How Olisakwe explains in detail the events happening in Nigeria around the 80s, and how she takes us to different parts of Nigeria in just a single book. I’ll rate it as 4.7/5. It’s actually a beautiful read.

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.

Ogadinma by Ukamaka Olisakwe
Ogadinma by Ukamaka Olisakwe

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