A new novel from the winner of the Wole Soyinka Prize for African Literature
It is the mid-1980s in Lagos, Nigeria, and the government's War against Indiscipline is in full operation. Amid poverty and tight rules and regulations, women especially must sacrifice dignity and safety in order to find work and peace. Tolani Ajao is a secretary working at Federal Community Bank. A succession of unfortunate events leads Tolani's roommate and volatile friend Rose to persuade her to consider drug trafficking as an alternative means of making a living. Tolani's struggle with temptation forces her to reconsider her morality and that of her mother, Arike; Swallow weaves the stories of the two women intricately together in a vivid, unforgettable portrayal of Tolani's turbulent journey of self-discovery.
In Atta's spirited and largehearted second novel (after the collection, News from Home), two young woman office workers navigate the rapids of the urban jungle of Lagos. Rose, and the narrator, Tolani, live and work together, making the long, arduous daily commute by bus and sharing "seats, sweat, and gossip." They often don't agree: Rose, at 30, flits from man to man to avoid falling into what she calls "the black hole" of dependency and inertia, and disapproves of Tolani's longtime boyfriend, Sanwo, who won't propose. However, Rose's irrepressible temper gets her fired, leaving her vulnerable to the manipulation of a new boyfriend, OC, who convinces her to mule drugs to England. Tolani has her own woes: she breaks up with Sanwo after he loses her savings; she has to work with a new, lecherous boss; her aging mother is ever more fragile; and she learns her father, now dead, may not have actually been her father. But will she take OC up on his offer of quick money? Tolani's tale encompasses towns and villages, corruption and superstition, deceit and loyalty, all beautifully layered and building toward a wallop you never see coming.