“Book Review: The Courage to Aspire”
Reviewed by Liam Anthony
A sentimental reflection on what it takes to achieve your goal in life.
The Courage to Aspire by Chuks I. Ndukwe is a poignant memoir documenting the inspiring life of the author from his childhood in a Nigerian village to his life as an adult engineer. Through the author’s eyes, we see a story that not only shares a unique coming of age but that also meditates on the kindness and humility that gets you to your destination.
Beginning in the author’s hometown of Amigwu in southeastern Nigeria, there is instantly an optimism which transcends throughout the book. From the friendship Ogubuleke (the author’s given name) shares with his cousin Egibichi, to the anticipation they both share about starting school for the first time, we quickly learn that Ogubuleke has the drive to make it on his own. He shows signs of academic merit, passing all of his exams. In the midst of his school life, the reader also becomes acquainted with his touching bond with his mother.
As Ogubuleke excels at school, he discovers even more about the standard protocol of forming social relationships and self-confidence. From standing up to a class bully to accepting that on some occasions he can’t be top of the class, the young man seems to never stop learning. When two scientists do a presentation at his school, the lightbulb moment hits him. He decides to become an electrical engineer, and his story never slows down.
Ogubuleke is subsequently offered scholarships to receive the necessary training to follow his career goal. Thanks to the gratitude of his teacher and his wife, he’s able to take the next big step in achieving his dream. Reoccurring themes of determination and career trajectory is punctuated with competitiveness and disappointment. Ndukwe never fails to acknowledge how fortunate he is.
Stylistically, the memoir follows a conventional linear narrative. Each chapter comes with its own quote by different philosophers and writers, reinforcing the moral blueprint behind the memoir. I did find the author’s dialogue a bit distracting, making me feel as though it was something fictional and contrived rather than a natural retelling of his life, and there are some parts of the book that feel a bit repetitive, too, but overall I enjoyed my reading experience.
The author certainly leaves the reader emotionally invested in his story. After battling a bout of pneumonia, Ogubuleke meets a love interest in Fortune, a moment in which the reader rejoices. Without giving away any spoilers, let’s just say the author had gone through enough heartbreaking moments and deserves this excitement. As his relationship with Fortune flourishes, so does the military conflict in Nigeria.
The Courage to Aspire is certainly an eye-opening coming of age memoir. Our narrator takes the reader on a shared pilgrimage of exposing the true power of human kindness. It is a book that champions the importance of receiving an education and perpetuating those values in one’s current life. It is a book that educates the reader on Nigerian culture and which leaves us on an axis of realization: “As the plane began to taxi to the takeoff point, my faith and belief in the infinite goodness and mercy of God–even for the undeserving like me–grew stronger.”
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