Book: Season of Crimson Blossoms
Author: Abubakar Adam Ibrahim
Publisher: Parresia Books
Year of publication: 2015
Number of pages: 345
Abubakar Adam Ibrahim is not an unknown name in the world of African literature. Some of his many accolades include being shortlisted for the Caine Prize for African writing, a BBC African performance prize winner, and the Amatu Braide Prize.
His first offering was The Whispering Trees a short story collection with Season of Crimson Blossoms being the first full novel of the Abuja resident. The latter follows the lives of two protagonists Hajiya Binta Zubairu and Hassan ‘Reza’ Babale.
Hajiya is a highly respected widow in her fifties known for her adherence to the Islamic faith who lived in Jos before her younger son moved her to the outskirts of Abuja after there was skirmishes in the former town. She lives with her teenage niece Fa’iza and just started to go to school grand daughter Ummi. The minors are staying with her as a result of the struggles that affect their part of the country when religion and politics mix bringing an explosion to a uniquely Nigerian powder keg.
Reza on the other hand is the lead thug at the San Siro, a local hideout for a bunch of not outstanding members of Nigerian society that specialise in all manner of unfortunate acts like mugging and selling drugs. They are also on the payroll of a local senator who uses them whenever there is a need for enforcers at political rallies and other dubious activities.
These two meet while Reza is busy trying to meet his carrier targets; Hajiya mistakenly walks in on him while he is robbing her home blind. On seeing her, he also steals more stuff from her and takes off into the late afternoon.
Eventually, he feels remorseful at stealing from the older lady, who incidentally reminds him of his mother. On the other side, Hajiya is reminded by the young thug of a son Yaro who passed on a decade and half ago and was also a thug. Eventually they meet and… well… They do it. (Yes, They have sex in case you can’t figure it out). The weird dynamic was that their sexual escapades had a sort of incestuous look to them. She reminded him of the mother who abandoned him and had gone of to whore herself in Jeddah. He reminded her of her son who who died in her arms; a child she was never able to call by his given name which was a tradition of not naming first children by their first name. It was like they were having sex with their mother/son. Ewww!
So there you have it. A young fellow having sex on the sly with an older religious woman; it has former firebrand freedom fighter Wambui Otieno and her second husband Peter Mbugua written all over it. In that story, they live happily ever after until she passes on and he is thrown out of the home by her kids who happen to be older to her.
In this story, the two characters are involved in mad drama in their lives with her family life getting all weird while his work life being more complicated. In between all this they have to find a way to deal with their primal urges.
Because of the its pace, this book is not the type that would keep you up late night feverishly trying to get to the unlikely conclusion. It is the kind of book I found myself pausing and doing other tasks even as it went to its climax. What it does instead is give you extremely well written prose that keeps you engaged along the way.
This book has been a huge revelation for me about the middle/northern Nigerian question as it takes the perceptions that some of us have about that part of the country and given them life. The perceptions involve sadly the images that I watch on CNN, BBC and Al Jazeera about a Nigeria that is always tearing itself apart because of sectarian violence. I should know better because I am Kenyan and we get the same crap about us but the thing is that media perception is real. What the book does is show people who have been through hell and they are still dealing with their issues like every other human being. The characters are crying, they have sex like their lives depended on it, they are having mental breakdowns, they have petty jealousies. These are human beings in spite of what they dress in be it the hijab or other clothing prescribed by their religion.
Its not just the micro side of human behaviour that the book sheds a light on. It looks at the happenings in Nigeria on the way to the election that happened on 28th March. Reza finds himself doing tasks for a powerful senator who is trying to maintain his power in the state. We are also following the happenings both in her part of town as well as nationally with Mallam Haruna who is seeking to marry Hajiya. This is with his obsession with listening to the radio and the relaying what is happening around the country.
So what would I recommend that you read this book. Hell yeah.