My review of the award winning novel “THE JOYS OF MOTHERHOOD”
On my recent discovery of literature books at the Public Library, I decided to reread this wonderful book and feed my interest in enjoying English and African literature.
One could say that Nnu-Ego lived a heavy life; the type no one would wish to have.
And after all being said and some, she died an unhappy woman. From the beginning of her life after being born from A Love Affair between her powerful father Agbadi and bks head strong mistress Ona, Nnu-Ego’s life had been a definition of ups-and-downs.
Despite having a rich background thanks to her father’s wealth, a forced marriage dissolved only after a few years because she couldn’t bear her husband a child. She was referred to as a barren woman and she watched her husband get married to another “fertile” woman.
(See chapter 3)
According to the belief of the Igbo region before Christianity was abducted, everyone is presumably assigned a “Chi” – which I think is a personal god for an individual, who would guide you through everything you do and has the ability to grant you bad/good luck.
However, Nnu-ego’s Chi was keen on destroying Nnu-Ego’s life as an act of a revenge because she was murdered (she was a slave woman living in Agbadi’s household who was buried alive)
Because she was so desperate of having her own child, she accepted her fate of marrying a Lagos man who washes a white couple’s cloths everyday for a living. Her bride price was paid to her father and she journeyed to Lagos with her new brother-in-law to meet her new husband.
Buchi Emecheta’s brilliant storytellying nuance carried us through Nnu-Ego’s unfortunate child bearing/motherhood experience as her first baby son Ngozi died just few weeks after birth.
The psychological strength behind Nnu-Ego as a character began to deplete as each of her nine children were born, adding to the backdrop of the country’s colonial reign.
Times were hard and Nnu-Ego’s experience was rather tragic. With a marriage with her second husband, Nnaife who was a complex character to read about, life’s hard blow dealt with Nnu-Ego every step of the way.
Nnu-Ego faced situation such as financial difficulties, accepting the forced role of being a senior wife to Nnaife’s inherited wife Adaku, losing hope of ever seeing her husband again after Nnaife was forced to join the army to fight for the British, struggling to keep her three sons in school.
Still she consoled herself with the refrain that when she grows old, her children will take care of her. She refused to live her own life without considering her children’s wellbeing first.
Her regret at the last chapter of the book summed up my reason for writing the review Nnu-Ego didn’t live a life of her own. Instead she bore more children than she and Nnaife could afford. The idea that more children means more wealth is an unnecessary notion, unless you can take good care of many children it is not really necessary.
Nnu-Ego learnt this in the hard way and she lived a life of hardship to maintain her home alongside her uneasy, drunk of a husband.
While I was halfway done with the book, I exclaimed loudly in the library while reading “This woman needs to chill and stop giving birth now!”
Her character felt this too because on the birth of her ninth child, she gave birth to a stillborn. She secretly feared it was her wish of not wanting the child that killed the baby at birth. Especially since it was a female child.
However, it was later seen that despite Nnu-Ego struggle on her children and her consolation that her children will grow up to be successful, she didn’t have the outcome she imagined.
Her first son Oshia insisted on furthering his education in the United states and refused to support the family. Each of her children chose different life of their own.
Nnu-Ego eventually died at her native town alone without any of her children by her side, she died suddenly before she could even reap the fruit of her labour.Her funeral was however the second best funeral in the town and a statue was made in her honour.
Despite having a sad ending to a life of struggle and crushed hope, THE JOYS OF MOTHERHOOD is a beautiful book written in simple words and it’s deep storytelling of a devoted strong mother who lived a different life than she thought she would.
The writer Buchi Emechata took us through the journey of feeling every bit of emotions Nnu-Ego felt as a mother.
In an era where women were born to be solely wives to their husbands, Nnu-Ego chose to be a mother to her children. She carried her duty like a treasure.
For every man to himself and even though you have the duty to think first of your family, you still have to think of yourself. Oshia did this!
It is a bad practice to assume the good children were their father’s while the bad ones were their mother’s. For many cases it still occurs in many Nigerian homes.
I can’t imagine how Nnu Ego felt while she listened to her husband lay with a new wife in the most improper arrangement ever – a one-bedroom apartment!
There is joy in being a mother but to be truly happy, you also need to live the life you’ve always wanted even if you are a mother. Who says you can’t have it all?
Also read this book!
~Susanah Omohunola Ajiboye.