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by Chinedu Enechi

Rating: ***

Following the death of her parents, nine-year-old Ifechidere lives with her abusive aunt and uncle in Ukpabi-Nimbo, Enugu State, Nigeria. Her cousin, Afoma, is kind but her other cousin, Onukwabe, is not. However, a chance educational opportunity that must remain secret transforms Ifechidere’s life. But, will karma catch up with those she leaves behind in the Nimbo community?...

In the beginning, Ifechidere’s treatment at the hands of her aunt and uncle is brutal. Enechi’s writing is literal, lean, and forthright, highlighting the cruelty meted out to Ifechidere and the sadism of her aunt, in particular.

However, after a few chapters, this story becomes as much Afoma’s and even more so, Onukwabe’s. This abrupt change gives a slight lack of cohesion in the progression of the narrative that began strongly as Ifechidere’s. Each of the characters undoubtedly has the potential to be developed further and together, but the prose never quite explores their personalities, personal journeys, and connection to the extent that it could.

However, applying that level of depth would make Ifechidere a very different book, and Enechi’s simple, spare tone works well in context, bringing the prose the feel of a parable or moral story and leaving the reader with much to ponder.

Indeed, despite its brevity, the novella deals with the weighty issues of retribution, redemption, and forgiveness. It would have been easy for Ifechidere to have sought revenge but, in the end, she does not need to, and it’s certainly thought-provoking and rather poignant how it concludes.

If like myself, you are not from an African background, then the setting of Ifechidere adds a real layer of cultural and geographical interest, and the Glossary to explain and consolidate was a nicely thoughtful touch.

Ifechidere is an interesting and quietly powerful novella that is easily read in an hour or so, and well worth doing. Recommended.

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