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Sunday, May 26, 2019

Books

Debut novel by UH alumnus lacks focus, narrative


Author and UH alumnus Chinedu Achebe attempts to address many of the political and social effects of the election of America’s first black president, President Barack Obama. However, the results fall beneath uneven prose and a directionless narrative.

“Blunted on Reality” follows the life of Obi Ifeanyi, a Nigerian-born American, as he tries to organize his own future on the eve of Obama’s presidency. Throughout the novel, Ifeanyi confronts many life challenges, from dealing with ex-girlfriends to discerning his future career path.

One of the strongest points is the way it shows the presidency through a young man’s eyes.

Ifeanyi and his friends slip into speeches resembling opinion columns that raise important questions about how Obama will react to the social inequality residing in the country.

However, any big ideas grasped within the novel feel incomplete due to clunky prose rife with spelling and punctuation errors. The plot loses all sense of direction. The reader is left shifting through places and years at the drop of a sentence, which in the end, forbids the reader to adjust and maintain coherency.

The most interesting aspect of the novel fails to be a political examination but rather the elaboration on Nigerian culture. Aside from the Nigerian-centric perspective of the protagonists, Achebe breaks from the central story to provide the history of both Nigeria and Ifeanyi’s family. These narrative breaks provide a fairly gripping story about the Nigerians’ revolt against Euro-centric culture through the modern era.

Still, the central characters in the book never live up to the description the narration provides. They are rampant with misogyny, and the idea presented by Ifeanyi’s parents that suggests women serve no further purpose than taking care of their men is, uncomfortably, never refuted.

A large problem with the novel is that Ifeanyi never really faces any problems, nor are there ever really consequences for the character’s actions. Ifeanyi is just falling into one situation after another, slipping comfortably into a resolution without the slightest signs of a struggle. The narration is disengaged from the story, and it passes the feeling onto the reader.

None of this is helped by the book’s short length of 174 pages, which fails to leave any room for characters to develop and grow. This leaves the romantic relationships within the novel feeling rushed and creepy — one instance has two characters who seem convinced of marriage after being in a relationship for only several pages. Accompanied with stilted dialogue, Achebe’s debut fails to hit any emotional resonance promised in its premise.

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