This book reminded me a lot of The Poisonwood Bible. I am always completely disheartened when I hear stories of Christians who go to foreign countries with an eye to convert the masses. It is so prideful and always has a disastrous outcome.
The first half of this book follows the story of Okonkwo who sets out to prove that he can make something of himself despite his father's lazy and incompetent ways. He gains fame as a great wrestler when he is just a young child. As he grows up he decided that he must show no weakness and always be strong. As with anyone who causes the pendulum to swing too far to the other side he discovers that there are flaws on either end of the spectrum. On a side note I watched a great Film Noir movie called Detective Story at a cute indie theatre in town this week that told the same story. In this case, the main police detective was trying to make up for his father's abusiveness by becoming a servant of justice. His black and white views on good and evil ended up being his downfall. I highly recommend the movie if you can find it because I was blown away by the fantastic story and amazingly portrayed characters. It was filmed in the 50s though so you will have to put up with a few dated elements and a bit of chauvinism.
The second half of the novel follows the village's downfall after Christian missionaries move into the community and attempt to convert the masses. At first, it is only society's outcasts that find meaning in story of the God of love. When a few people of high society are converted and violence ensues the novels title makes an appearance and you can see that things are about to fall apart. The novel does not end on a happy note, and you are left to wonder what will become of the village that has started to unravel.
I am extremely happy that Daniel Burt chose to add novels from more than one ethnicity and community to his list. I have loved expanding my horizons as I read literature from around the world. I struggled to place myself in the shoes of Okonkwo as he used violence against his wives and children and killed the boy he had adopted as a son. That being said it is great to look at the world with different lenses, particularly as a person of faith. Although the tribal belief system seems foreign and outdated it is great to try on different perspectives and hopefully analyze your own beliefs. I have never been one who is afraid of the questions and have always been open to dialogue. I am happy to add new literature and cultural experiences to my repertoire.
My last comment on the novel is that I absolutely adored the title. I did a study on the poem that it comes from when I was in high school and was pleasantly surprised when I discovered that the poem was a picture of William B. Yeats belief that the world was based on a 2000 year cycle. The words resonated with me and even though I don't believe his theories I absolutely adored his imagery and use of language. It is great that we can communicate with each other across the continents and across the centuries through the use of words. I felt that this quote from the novel reminded me a lot of the poem:
"For whom is it well, for whom is it well? There is no one for whom it is well"My last and favourite quote from the novel is this: "There is no story that is not true". This is my favourite part of literature. I love that whether it is told in metaphor or represents a theory that you don't subscribe to there are still glimmers of truth that resonate within you. Stories are a way of explaining the human experience and I love that we have been gifted with this method of making sense of the world around us.