Reviewed by Toni Woodruff
Personal and political relationships threaten to crack in this contemporary literary novel.
The Miseducation of Obi Ifeanyi is set during the 2012 election, a pivotal moment for many of the characters who are rooting for Obama’s re-election. The characters include but are not limited to the titular Obi, his wife Nkechi, his son Ike, and more close to them.
Amidst the presidential campaign, Nkechi becomes embroiled in a smaller local campaign for a woman named Sade. Unbeknownst to Nkechi, Sade and Obi had a previously serious romantic relationship. Sade’s resurgence in Obi’s life begins to complicate his budding marriage all while a bigger, more nefarious secret is soon to be unearthed.
The Miseducation of Obi Ifeanyi handles a myriad of concepts quite well. In addition to the Sade-Obi situation, another big conflict is Obi’s somewhat traditional mindset backdropped against the more feminist beliefs of Nkechi & Chinwe (Obi’s sister). The characters candidly speak from their position while trying to understand each other, leading to some fascinating dialogue. The characters also discuss the dissonance between the identity of African and African-American, a vulnerable and enlightening part of the book.
The female characters shine in this novel. While the dialogue between the men at times rotates between the same topics of pleasure and marriage, the female characters offer more complexity throughout.
Obi’s mother Ijeoma is an enigma with a parsimonious personality. Her potential growth could be one of the most interesting aspects of this book. As America is fighting with itself between tradition and progress, that same sense of calamity is existing in Ijeoma. Each woman adds emotional layers to The Miseducation of Obi Ifeanyi.
While there’s a lot to like about the book, I did find myself eventually bogged down by the amount of dialogue. There is very little description of the characters and setting, which, at times, makes the book bleed into itself. It is hard to gauge time passing, so the character’s progress comes as somewhat surprising.
The conversations that the men so regularly have about their relationship with women leaves me wanting, too. I wonder about topics like corporate America and the disappointment of the American Dream, but they slide by the wayside because of the dependence on these other conversations. Whenever they discuss politics or the hardships of life, the dialogue really pops.
The Miseducation of Obi Ifeanyi is a great story with a great twist. It hits on a number of emotional aspects while offering regularly intriguing information about the contemporary Nigerian experience.
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