30 Days of Books – Day 6 – A Book That Makes You Sad

It seemed to me that this should be much easier to pin down than yesterday’s entry. I love sad books, I read sad books all the time! Heck, in school I was required to read a whole slew of sad novels. There was Where the Red Fern Grows, which I threw at the wall after finishing (just before I burst out crying, what is with schools and sad dog books? Sounder? Shiloh? Old Yeller?). Books that make me sad for us as a society like Feed, Lord of the FliesUnder the Dome, and pretty much anything by Steinbeck.  Then there are the ones that leave me sad for the characters; Mockingjay left me morose for days over the ruination of Peeta (and Katniss’s one chance at being a whole person). The problem seems to be that I’ve enjoyed too many sad books. I’m spoiled for choice.

I picked one anyway.

 Kehinde, by Buchi Emecheta

Kehinde is a novel by a Nigerian author, dealing with what it means to be a modern African woman living in the West. Kehinde and her husband are living and working happily in London when Albert’s sisters begin pressuring him to return to Nigeria. Kehinde is reluctant to return: her two children have never even seen Nigeria, she has a good job at the bank, and she enjoys the independence Western culture offers. Albert forces her to make a terrible choice, then takes the children to Nigeria with him to establish a residence. Kehinde remains behind for a time, working and trying to sell their home, but eventually she begins to feel that she is unwhole without her family and convinces herself that she can have an honored place in Nigerian society as a woman who has “been to” the West and back.

It has been two years since Albert left and in that time he has found a nice large home, sent the children to boarding school, and taken a second wife. His new wife is younger, better educated, and a part of the local community and so Kehinde finds herself relegated to a back bedroom. It is my hope that more people will read this novel, it’s very good, so I’m going to be vague about the rest. Kehinde goes on a sort of spiritual journey to find her independence, events of her present mixing with memories of the past. This journey is deeply rooted in African culture and may be difficult for the average American reader, but it is worth the effort.

It makes me sad, but it’s a good book. If you enjoy this type of literature you might also read Ourika, by Claire de Duras; and The Belly of the Atlantic, by Fatou Diôme. Diôme does an incredible job drawing a detailed picture of modern Sénégalese life and culture on a small island, filled with poetic imagery and proverbs, and examining the relationship between France and the Sénégalese.  Her short stories are equally resonant.


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