High school student Blessing Mukorho brings a fresh voice and considerable skill to this moral tale written for teenagers, by a teenager. Mukorho’s debut novel, Unbearable, offers a palpable Nigerian setting, a youthful tone, and a heartfelt, if simplified, message about faith.
Unbearable focuses on Amara Obi, a young woman living in Lagos in the aftermath of a childhood filled with physical and emotional pain. Amara’s insights often belie her age — as a 5-year-old, she realizes how strange it is that she should act as her “mother’s mother” in times of crisis — and we soon learn that her wisdom is hard-earned. Pulling no punches, Amara frankly retells the violent event that caused her to lose all faith in a loving God who would answer her prayers.
Amara’s journey to restored faith is the heart of Mukorho’s tale, and her transformation is complete. Unfortunately, it’s a little too quick, a little too perfect. Where the faithless Amara fended off all boys and men before they could even speak to her, for instance, the born-again Christian Amara quickly falls in love and gets married. While once Amara could not bear to think of her father or mother, she can now be with them and experience total forgiveness. It’s all a bit tidy to be truly believable.
While Mukorho’s moral message is overly transparent, other aspects of her novel are subtler and quite engaging. She evokes modern Nigeria, for instance, through contrasting images: bathwater may still be carried in a bucket, but everyone has a BlackBerry. Such images, along with lilting dialogue that carries the rhythm of Amara’s mother’s Pidgin English, create a strong sense of place. Readers will feel as if they have been transported into Amara’s world.
While Unbearable could benefit from a more nuanced treatment of its main theme, the verisimilitude of the story’s individual scenes are a tribute to a talent Mukorho has clearly only begun to express.
Also available in hardcover.