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And After Many Days

Cover of And After Many Days

And After Many Days

A Novel
Borrow Borrow
An unforgettable debut novel about a boy who goes missing, a family that is torn apart, and a nation on the brink

During the rainy season of 1995, in the bustling town of Port Harcourt, Nigeria, one family's life is disrupted by the sudden disappearance of seventeen-year-old Paul Utu, beloved brother and son. As they grapple with the sudden loss of their darling boy, they embark on a painful and moving journey of immense power which changes their lives forever and shatters the fragile ecosystem of their once ordered family. Ajie, the youngest sibling, is burdened with the guilt of having seen Paul last and convinced that his vanished brother was betrayed long ago. But his search for the truth uncovers hidden family secrets and reawakens old, long forgotten ghosts as rumours of police brutality, oil shortages, and frenzied student protests serve as a backdrop to his pursuit.
In a tale that moves seamlessly back and forth through time, Ajie relives a trip to the family's ancestral village where, together, he and his family listen to the myths of how their people settled there, while the villagers argue over the mysterious Company, who found oil on their land and will do anything to guarantee support. As the story builds towards its stunning conclusion, it becomes clear that only once past and present come to a crossroads will Ajie and his family finally find the answers they have been searching for.
And After Many Days introduces Ile's spellbinding ability to tightly weave together personal and political loss until, inevitably, the two threads become nearly indistinguishable. It is a masterful story of childhood, of the delicate, complex balance between the powerful and the powerless, and a searing portrait of a community as the old order gives way to the new.

From the Hardcover edition.
An unforgettable debut novel about a boy who goes missing, a family that is torn apart, and a nation on the brink

During the rainy season of 1995, in the bustling town of Port Harcourt, Nigeria, one family's life is disrupted by the sudden disappearance of seventeen-year-old Paul Utu, beloved brother and son. As they grapple with the sudden loss of their darling boy, they embark on a painful and moving journey of immense power which changes their lives forever and shatters the fragile ecosystem of their once ordered family. Ajie, the youngest sibling, is burdened with the guilt of having seen Paul last and convinced that his vanished brother was betrayed long ago. But his search for the truth uncovers hidden family secrets and reawakens old, long forgotten ghosts as rumours of police brutality, oil shortages, and frenzied student protests serve as a backdrop to his pursuit.
In a tale that moves seamlessly back and forth through time, Ajie relives a trip to the family's ancestral village where, together, he and his family listen to the myths of how their people settled there, while the villagers argue over the mysterious Company, who found oil on their land and will do anything to guarantee support. As the story builds towards its stunning conclusion, it becomes clear that only once past and present come to a crossroads will Ajie and his family finally find the answers they have been searching for.
And After Many Days introduces Ile's spellbinding ability to tightly weave together personal and political loss until, inevitably, the two threads become nearly indistinguishable. It is a masterful story of childhood, of the delicate, complex balance between the powerful and the powerless, and a searing portrait of a community as the old order gives way to the new.

From the Hardcover edition.
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Excerpts-
  • From the book ***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected proof***

    Copyright ©2016 Jowhor Ile

    Chapter One

    Paul turned away from the window and said he needed to go out at once to the next compound to see his friend. It was a Monday afternoon in the rainy season of 1995. Outside, the morning shower had stopped and the sun was gathering strength, but water still clung to the grass on the lawn. "I'm going to Fola's house, "he said again to his brother Ajie, who was lying on the couch, eyes closed, legs hooked up the back of the chair. If Ajie heard, then he gave no sign.

    Ajie sighed as a woman presenter's voice came up on the radio, cutting through the choral music, „Why do they always interrupt at the best part?‟ Paul floundered by the door as though he had changed his mind; then he bent to buckle his sandals, slung his backpack on, left the house and did not return.

    At least this is one way to begin to tell this story.

    Things happen in clusters. They would remember it as the year Mile Three Ultra Modern market burnt down in the middle of the night. The year the Trade Fair came to town and Port Harcourt city council, in preparation for this major event, commissioned long brightly painted buses which ran for cheap all the way from Obigbo to Borokiri (a full hour's journey for a mere two Naira!). It was the year of the poor. Of rumours, radio announcements, student riots, and sudden disappearance. It was also the year news reached them of their home village Ogibah, that five young men had been shot dead by the square in broad daylight and the sequence of events which led to this remained open to argument. Ajie stretched out and yawned, then dropped his arm and let it dangle from where he lay on the couch. He heard the gate creak as Paul let himself out and the house fell back to the radio music and the sound of Bibi, their middle sister, blow-drying her hair in the bathroom. Ajie and Bibi were due back in school that weekend. Their tin trunks were packed, school day uniforms already ironed and hanging, waiting in wardrobes. Their mother, Ma, went through the school lists, as she always did before the start of each term, checking if everything had been bought. Paul had just finished his final School Certificate exams that past June, so he stayed back at home while Ajie and Bibi spent hot afternoons at Mile One market with Ma, buying school supplies for the term: textbooks, notebooks, buckets, mosquito nets, provisions, T-squares, drawing boards, four figure tables, cutlasses, brooms and jerry cans.

    Their father Bendic had decided that since Bibi's school was on the outskirts of town, she would be dropped off on Saturday evening. Ajie's school was four hours away, so they had all of Sunday reserved for his journey. The blue Peugeot 504 station wagon was sent out to the mechanic for servicing. For a whole afternoon their driver, Marcus, sat under the guava tree and read a paper and fanned himself and when the cloud changed face, he carried his seat into the gate house where Ismaila had a little pot set on the stove. The pot boiled and the lid clattered against the rim, letting go a fold of steam that escaped through the windows into the trees outside, and the sharp scent of dadawa sauce reached toward the main house.

    *

    The day before, Bendic had called Ajie and Bibi into his study as he prepared letters to their guardians. Bibi's guardian was an agile, muscular woman Ajie had seen once during a visit to Bibi's school. He had assumed from the woman's air of personal authority and wide, relentless hips that she was the school's matron. Bibi later told him she was a mere Agriculture teacher and nothing more. Ajie's...

About the Author-
  • Jowhor Ile was born in 1980 and raised in Nigeria, where he currently lives. His fiction has appeared in McSweeney's Quarterly and Litro Magazine.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    December 21, 2015
    Set in southern Nigeria, Ile’s debut novel pits the personal against the political in a slow-burning family drama. The year is 1995: university students take to the streets to agitate for better funding; NEPA, the country’s electric utility, can’t keep the grid juiced; the military government hangs nine dissidents. Yet in the swirl of postcolonial struggle, the Utu family has built a stable life of bourgeois respectability in metropolitan Port Harcourt, while keeping close ties to their ancestral village of Ogibah. One day, 17-year-old Paul Utu disappears. The novel rewinds to Ajie’s childhood, eventually finishing in the present day. It is through precocious Ajie, the youngest sibling, that we learn the Utu family history, from their tribe’s origin story and grandfather’s Christianization through the horrors of the Biafran War and into the mid-’90s. As quick-tempered Ajie comes of age, the novel depicts the contradictions of his mother’s Christianity, his father’s indefatigable liberalism, and their family bonds—all of which, already stretched thin between the old world and the new, are further strained by Paul’s disappearance. Though he occasionally burdens young Ajie with adult concerns that seem implausibly heavy, Ile hits the emotional register of childhood experiences, like the all-or-nothing satisfaction of following older kids in climbing a tree, or the searing heat of school humiliations. Agent: Sarah Chalfant, Wylie Agency.

  • Chigozie Obioma, The New York Times Book Review "Ile creates an atmosphere of ominous tension and renders the grief of the family in restrained and moving language. He has a particular talent for reflecting the perfect details that make even a passing moment come to life."
  • Binyavanga Wainaina, author of One Day I Will Write About This Place "Jowhor Ile is a rare talent. This rich book is ripe with mood and full of love, masterfully written with the perfect emotional pitch. Nigeria has a new star."
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