The back cover of Ebuni Ilombu’s book, At the End of the Day, calls it a novel, but it reads like a memoir. The author uses first-person narrative; the story covers a specific period of time, and the narrator eventually experiences a new understanding of her life.
The story begins in 2002, when Nigerian-born Marina leaves her native country to begin a career as a dentist in the United Kingdom. Confident in her ability and eager for new experiences, she is nonetheless stymied in her search for happiness. For years she struggles with the dreary climate and the drudgery of her job. One day after encountering an exceptionally recalcitrant patient, she realizes she has placed herself on a treadmill.
Her brother’s unexpected death combined with her career burnout contributes to a personal reassessment. Determined to change her life, she decides to foster a young boy. During this process, she realizes what is truly important in life, meets her one true love and sets the course for new beginnings.
Ilombu’s writing is inventive and evocative, as in: “The chilly air was predatory. It stalked me wherever I went.” Her turn of phrase is frequently noteworthy: “He must have thought I’d lived in a tree somewhere in Africa before coming over.” As either memoir or fiction, however, this work falls short because it lacks a central driving force. Yes, Marina changes her life, but she does so slowly and only after years of stasis. For all of its good writing, the book simply tells the life of Marina, instead of powering toward a unique and important conclusion. Ultimately this makes for flat, lackluster reading.
While the author shows writing talent and the book tells a tale of life, loss, determination and love, it lacks the central driving force and passion that can keep readers engaged throughout the book.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.