First published by National Mirror
The first time I came in contact with the book, The Whispering Trees by emerging author, Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, I was at a public reading where excerpts from it were read. That first contact left me longing for more.
They say a sweet soup is perceived by the aroma it leaves in the air.
Few lines heard from The Whispering Trees left me curious, yearning for a full reading.
By ordinary description, the book, The Whispering Trees is a collection of short stories, 12 of them. It was published earlier this year by new Lagos-based publishing firm, Parresia Publishers.
But that is where simple description ends. Every other thing about this book is a class act.
Against the usual with short stories, tales in this book have no simple story lines, rather complex and twisting tales; compact, full of suspense with almost every new paragraph adding a new twist and varying with the previous.
Reading this book, there is no way you can guess what will happen next, not even the next paragraph. From the first paragraph of each story, one easily hangs under the grip of suspense till the last word. Let us examine a few of the stories. The Whispering Trees, used as the title story, tells of Salim who is just a month away from graduating from Medical College when he is involved in an accident in which his mother dies.
He is severely injured, almost to the point of death. However, he survives, but loses his sight, meaning his life is almost wrecked. Initially, Faulata, his love, who his impending marriage to her, had been the reason for the trip, stands by him at this trying period. Faulata cares so much and her love gives him reason to start life anew after frustration had made him lose interest in life.
Then, Faulata too leaves him to marry another man.
Now, Salim wants to die. But death refuses to come when he desires it.
In the process of his catharsis with these whirlwind of experiences, his inner eyes open. He starts seeing again; not with eyes but with his soul.
He sees what those with two eyes cannot see, the state of each soul; the description of man’s soul, as he could see, is in the most appalling state.
He finds solace under whispering trees where he once played with other children many years ago, where animals blossom with their beautiful souls; souls that allure and inspire.
In the first story of the book, Twilight and Mist, Ohikwo meets with the butterfly maid who knows about everything his late mother knew. When he locates the girl’s home, she too is said to have died.
In Baba Idi’s Enclave, Baba Idi has been disenchanted with politics and politicians because his only daughter died as a result of government’s inadequacies.
Now another election comes, his son, Idi, begins to cavort with a local politician—the same man whose failure had brought so much sorrow to his family.
This association Baba Idi cannot stomach, but he does not plan his burning of a motorcycle gift his son brought home after the result of the election has been announced.
It will soon be a harbinger for the long-awaited reprisal violence against election riggers.
In Cat-eyed English Witch, the persona is distraught because she has been accused of being responsible for the death of a baby she loves very much.
She is Caucasian and married Bawa, a Nigerian student in London. She follows him home upon the death of his father. Her growing intimacy with her in-law, Lala, calls for his (Lala’s) wife concern, but surely not to the point of being accused of killing Lala’s son.
In all, most of the stories in the book have a theme of death and the supernatural woven around them, but rather in slightly complex plots mostly linking the supernatural and the natural in a manner that surprisingly looks everyday-like.
This book is a powerful African response to magical realism. It was written with a no-nonsense insight into the whole, complex universe – a complexity many may argue does not really exist, yet, fearfully believe in their innermost being – the other side of life. Really, when one has this book in hand, it is un-put-down-able. One cannot but wonder where this young author has been all the while.
In Abubakar Adams, the North has got another writer of genius; his craft is unique in many ways difficult to describe. Perhaps just say it is as original as originality can be described.
The publishers, Parresia, also will get a word. From what we hear, The Whispering Trees is their first literary publication.
If this is true, then, Nigeria should wait and see if Parresia will not be Nigeria’s number one literary publishing firm in the next few years. The editing is super, packaging and printing, excellent. New, excellent author and new, excellent publisher, rare combination!