Enemali took me back to those days: A review of Theophilus Enemali’s Homesick in Paradise
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Last Updated on July 19, 2019 by Memorila
Ubaji Isiaka Abubakar Eazy writes that Theophilus Enemali’s Homesick in Paradise, gives him a nostalgia of the good old days.
I am one of those still fascinated by simple stories for young adults. Indeed, my romance with literature began with such stories. From Onuora Nzekwu and Micheal Crowder’s Eze Goes to School, Christy Ade-Ajayi’s Ade our Naughty Little Brother, Kola Onadipe’s Sugar Girl, Eddie Iroh’s Without a Silver Spoon, Chinua Achebe’s Chike and the River, Olajire Olanlokun’s Kunle, the Superstar, Ted Ozondu’s A Chained Tomb to Cyprian Ekwensi’s The Drummer Boy, I was virtually nurtured on these novellas and today, I add a new book, albeit a full length novel, to my archive on young adult literature. That new book is Theophilus Enemali’s Homesick in Paradise!
Maybe I love these books because they recall certain experiences in my own life as a young boy and now that I am older, they ignite a nostalgic feeling for the past. They remind me of that time when men were boys, or what school life was like for me. Those that said school life is the best could not have been lying, you know?
The novel, Homesick in Paradise, chronicles the experiences of eleven years old Enemona as a student at St. Charles Lwanga Minor Seminary. Enemona had just lost his mother to illness few months after he started school, although the family decided against divulging the tragic occurrence to Enemona till much later when he returned home from school during the holiday. He would spend most of his days at school and holidays missing his mother, writing a letter to heaven, and hoping that even in paradise, his mother would be missing her earthly family.
Albeit the novel is episodic, the various encounters and experiences related in it are fascinating and often humorous. The writer takes us to the world of school boys; shows us their pranks and wily ways, and their fascination with the school catholic environment, very much different from the world outside it. In the story, you will meet the roguish Clinton who you cannot help loving or feeling pity for when he was expelled from the school, or Odoma, the bed wetting tyrant, you will also meet the uncouth Johnny alias Symbiotism; and ask him what “symbiotism” means and he would proudly tell you that it means “symbol of greatness” hahaha! The point here is that when you read this story, you will always find that one character that either reminds you of yourself as a young student or some other roguish or funny student you knew or know in your class.
And there are moral lessons to be learnt too. Clinton ended up badly; Enemona studied hard and became one of the best behaved students who passed out with flying colours. Hence, there is an emphasis on good conduct and children doing the right things.
Perhaps, an aspect of the story which I find uncomfortable are those instances of students being punished for speaking their mother tongue or being advised to disengage themselves from the cultural existence of their people. It is one of the worst colonial legacies targeted at fossilizing the African culture and language and I despise it. Also, I think the writer needs to master the act of translating from the local language to English without making it seem obvious or provide a glossary for the non-English words used.
In as much as the story looks good as it is, I think little illustrations and the idea of providing for each chapter a title or subheading might work well for the novel, considering its episodic nature. I believe this will help younger readers locate particular aspects of the novel they find intriguing.
The story has minimal grammatical inconsistencies compared to many others that I have read, and for a debut novel, it is not just a commendable effort, but an impressive one. We hope to find greater works linked to the writer the next time we visit the book store. This is one novel every young literature student should read.
© Ubaji Isiaka Abubakar Eazy 2019