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Set in Lagos, Nigeria, Tola Rotimi Abraham’s Black Sunday is a rich and accomplished coming-of-age debut that lays bare the hardships, heartaches and hopes of four siblings from 1996-2015.
Twin sisters Bibike and Ariyke (“we were never stupid girls. We were bright with borrowed wisdom”) live a pretty contented life until their mother loses her job at the Ministry of Petroleum. With her sacking underpinned by broader political dealings, there’s nothing she can do to keep the family afloat but take-up a teaching post, which she hates. Later, when she leaves the family and the twins’ father loses their family home, they and their brothers are cared for by their Yoruba grandmother. With the narratives split between the four siblings, each of them must deal with abandonment and abuse as Lagos changes, and their lives take separate paths.
The siblings’ intimate, affecting stories are wrapped-up in wider issues, such as church corruption and male exploitation of women. As Bibike notes, “Beauty was a gift, but what was I to do with it? It was fortunate to be beautiful and desired… But what is a girl’s beauty, but a man’s promise of reward? If beauty was a gift, it was not a gift to me, I could not eat my own beauty, I could not improve my life by beauty alone.” Meanwhile, Ariyke turns to religion. Universal emotions are also deftly handled, such as when their brother Peter comments “I think families who spend a lot of time arguing about the small stuff do it because they do not have the courage to talk about big things.” Fortunately for readers, Black Sunday is a brilliant book that has the courage to talk about the big things with honesty, humanity and beauty.
Twin sisters Bibike and Ariyike are enjoying a relatively comfortable life in Lagos in 1996. Then their mother loses her job due to political strife and their father gambles away their home, and the siblings are thrust into the reluctant care of their traditional Yoruba grandmother. Inseparable while they had their parents to care for them, the twins' paths diverge once the household shatters: one embracing modernity as the years pass, the other consumed by religion.
Written with astonishing intimacy and wry attention to the fickleness of fate, Black Sunday delves into the chaotic heart of family life. In the process, it tells a tale of grace in the midst of daily oppression, and of how two women carve their own distinct paths of resistance.
Abraham's debut novel tackles weighty topics . . . with a refreshing elegance . . . Abraham gently ushers readers into both sisters' perspectives, inviting us into their journey to autonomous peace -
Abraham stuffs her novel past brimming, but its sophisticated structure and propulsive narration allow her to tuck in a biting critique of corrupt colonial religion and universally exploitative men . . . A formidable debut -
Kirkus (starred review) -
The novel's strength lies in its lush, unflinching scenes . . . Abraham mightily captures a sense of the stresses of daily life in a family, city and culture that always seems on the edge of self-destruction -
Publishers Weekly -
In a fresh and fierce debut, Tola Rotimi Abraham proves that it's an act of indelible resistance every time a young woman tells her story. Through the eyes of a family at its brink, Abraham reveals the truth about violence, tenderness and the disquiet in between. Black Sunday is a surprising switchblade of a novel -- AMY JO BURNS -
author of Cinderland -
An assured and worthy debut, Black Sunday finds lyricism in the swell of everyday betrayal. In Abraham's hands, the coming-of-age novel mourns the easy perversion of sex, love, ambition, and faith, glimpsing, nevertheless, twin moments of grace and intimacy, daring and strength -- TRACY O'NEILL -
author of The Hopeful -
With stunning beauty and painful wisdom, Tola Rotimi Abraham's Black Sunday lays bare her characters' deepest aches and desires in a voice that is as haunting as it is addictive -- MARGARET WILKERSON SEXTON - author of The Revisioners
Tola Rotimi Abraham's sharp, captivating debut thrums with the energy of life itself. The story of a family and a city reeling from wounds both private and political, Black Sunday delivers unforgettable characters as they adapt to often cruel circumstances and fight to author their own futures. Abraham writes with such irresistible confidence and startling precision, I can't wait to see what she does next -- MIA ALVAR - author of In the Country
A searing debut novel about Nigerian twin sisters whose childhood bond is shattered by the political and social strife that impoverishes their family. As the decades pass, with all four of the family's children hurtling down painful, divergent paths, Abraham explores deeply felt themes of violence, kinship, and self-reliance - Esquire
A beautiful, deeply affecting debut. Smart and incisive. Abraham's robust tale of twins forging separate paths is a must read -- IRENOSEN OKOJIE
Simultaneously unique and universal . . . Black Sunday is a literary wound that bleeds pain for a while, but you should stay the course, because that's followed by lots of love, beauty and hope - NPR
Publication date: 06/08/2020
Publisher: Canongate Books Ltd
|Publication date:||6th August 2020|
|Author:||Tola Rotimi Abraham|
|Publisher:||Canongate Books Ltd|
|Genres:||Debuts of the Month, Family Drama, Modern and Contemporary Fiction, Diverse Voices,|
|Categories:||Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945),|
Tola Rotimi Abraham is a writer from Lagos, Nigeria. She lives in Iowa City and is currently pursuing a graduate degree in journalism. A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, she has taught writing at the University of Iowa. Her fiction and non-fiction have appeared in Catapult, the Des Moines Register, the Nigerian Literary Magazine and other places. @thatTolaMore About Tola Rotimi Abraham