Book Review: The Extinction Of Menai by Chuma Nwokolo

“How can I live in this world, Mata?”

‘Practiselearn. The lesson of the crab’.

“What is the lesson, Mata?” 

‘Carry your truthsweetness inside; but as for the world, show them only your crabshell’. Chuma Nwokolo in “The Extinction Of Menai”

Chuma Nwokolo is my best Nigerian/African writer yet and I was delighted to receive a free autographed copy of this book from the author himself. Thank you Sir!

I always say if a book is more than 350 pages, It really has to be good for me to read it up until the end. This book had 448 pages and It was a good one. This is the type of book you read that drives you into deep introspection and reasoning about certain ideologies. I found it complicated but yet simple in so many ways. I was totally consumed by this story and many times confused but I will definitely read this book again in the near future.

The story has several themes with the main one focusing on the Menai tribe ( a small fictional tribe in Niger Delta, Nigeria) whose people, culture and language are going into extinction due to an unethical trial vaccine administered to about 95% of the tribe who live in a small village called Kreektown. The story is told through the eyes of quite a number of characters who take us to many cities in Nigeria and abroad like Lagos, Abidjan, London and Abuja.

In his usual style, the author in most parts laced the story with some dark humor, mystery and suspense which made for good reading especially when it had to do with Humphrey Chow and Badu. Many times I wasn’t sure who was what or what was real or imagined. It was that confusing to be honest. An interesting angle was how the story also highlighted the political play that takes place in our country and the atrocities the police and politicians commit all in a bid to hold on to power. This brought There was also a hint of romance which added some spice to it all and it was a delight to watch it unfold.

This book resonates with me mostly because I am from the Niger Delta, Nigeria and also from a small tribe that historically migrated from a far away land to our current location. The name of our tribe is also the name of our language and town and this language is distinct and quite different from our neighbors.This really resembles the Menai tribe in the story. The story has made me to think about my roots, language and culture and how all these are really going extinct if nothing is done about it in the next few years.

The down side of this book is that there were too many narrators in the story which made it somewhat confusing most often than not. There was so much back and forth that sometimes I had to go back to check who a particular person was because I couldn’t remember who was what since there were too many people to keep track of.

Ultimately, it was a good read but not as great as his previous books I have read. I recommend it to anyone who loves mystery, a lot of suspense and some dark humor.

Rating: 3.8 Stars

Published: First Published in 2017 by Gwandustan ltd and March 7th 2018 by Ohio University Press

Pages: 448

Genre: Fiction

Purchase @ www.amazon.com/theextinctionofmenai

The Author: Chuma Nwokolo was born in Jos, in 1963, graduated from the University of Nigeria Nsukka in 1983 and was called to the bar in 1984. He was managing partner of the C&G Chambers in Lagos and writer-in-residence at The Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. He also cofounded the literary magazine African Writing with Afam Akeh. His first novels, The Extortionist (1983) and Dangerous Inheritance (1988), were published by Macmillan in the Pacesetter Novels and his stories have found foster homes in the London Review of Books, La Internazionale, AGNI, MTLS, Arzenal, and Sentinel, among places.
Chuma is really a short story writer, although he is not above stitching tales together into more garrulous novels. Thus, African Tales at Jailpoint (1999), One More Tale for the Road (2003), and – truth be told – Diaries of a Dead African (2003). His more honest anthologies consist of The Ghost of Sani Abacha (2012), How to Spell Naija in 100 Short Stories Volumes 1 (2013), and 2 (2016).
He is also guilty of poetry, some of which have been collected in Memories of Stone (2006) and The Final Testament of a Minor God (2014), but without question, the most difficult, sustained, and in a sense satisfying thing he has ever done is his imminent novel, The Extinction of Menai.

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