Friday, November 6, 2020

Book Review: Dear Alaere

Book description:

Alaere Benson is your typical modern, professional woman in search of that elusive work-life balance and societal acceptance in Lagos. When she gets a job at Criole, she is excited to be working for a multinational company, but it does not take long for her to see that Criole is dysfunctional and bears an eerie similarity to Nigeria. As she struggles to find her footing in her new role, she witnesses a never-ending theatre of murder, sexual harassment and mysticism.

At home, she is happily married to ‘Laja, but they begin to have problems when they experience difficulties having children and their situation is compounded by extended family interference.

With things spiralling out of control, she is forced to reassess how she feels about the chaos around her and takes charge of her life with her often humorous, frank diary entries. As she confronts and grapples with her experiences, she finds peace and healing through the catharsis of writing.


Interesting writing and description, but unfortunately, almost at the end of the book, I don’t know what the book is about. There are a few themes, events, and scenes with little or no development. We are following the main character, Alaere as she literally breezes through life. Before we enter the office with her and attempt to fully grasp how her day unfolds, she’s already back home and 9 months pregnant.

There’s no sense of time, so it’s difficult for someone like me who pays a lot of attention to timelines.

There are also some unbelievable characters and events, for instance, Alaere’s new female project manager pushing for a relationship with her, just like that (with someone who is clearly not interested in women). The same goes for a top-level expatriate who meets her and immediately starts sharing details of his love life and love letters. Maybe it was done after months of working together, but with no sense of time, everything feels rushed.

There are a few consistency issues, especially the part where Alaere’s illiterate driver Alhaji Wasiu, speaking pidgin English all through suddenly speaks correct and perfect English, even analysing world issues.

In all, the minor inconsistencies don’t affect the story as a whole, but a defined plot and timeline, as well as concentration on one main theme, would have made the book richer.

I always have a favourite line in every story. For this one, it was a page into the book when Alaere began a new job and her line manager with braided hair introduced herself as ‘Kamarachimdi’. I thought the name was too long for her to say it in full so casually, so I nodded when Alaere shortened the name to ‘Kamara’. The manager interrupted Alaere immediately saying ‘I would prefer if you did not abbreviate my name’. I felt that one. I laughed in total embarrassment, and I’m sure Alaere felt the same way. She imagined the ground cracking open and swallowing her manager whole, leaving behind only her braided wig. That image had me laughing as well.


Literarily Yours,

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