This week on our grill is Beyond the Heartbeat by Helen Uche Ibezim. A book that aspired to bring you some of the wrong beliefs and views cherished and practiced for many generations and how these have changed over the years.
And as we grilled, we discovered that in spite of all the wrong views and misconceptions, and at times, horrors experienced by victims of these traditions, people from the past still enjoyed love, life, good food, friendships and more.
In this read, Helen Uche Ibezim wished to unleash the power of narrative fiction to inform and enlighten her readers as well as provide a window into the past.
Ifeatu, a woman who for twelve years prayed the gods to grant her the fruit of the womb, finally gets pregnant only to deliver a set of twins not once, but twice, something that was considered an abomination at the time in her village. On her third pregnancy, the fear and anxiety of birthing another set of twins made her abandon her village for a neighbouring village where twins were accepted. And just as she feared, she again gave birth to a set of twins. A boy and a girl. She made a tough decision to give one of the children away before returning to her husband and her people. Both children grew up in different environments; One in the care of loving parents, the other in an orphanage.
We will let you find out for yourself which of the twins was given away, what became of both children and the aftereffects of her decisions even after many years, that is, if you are able to ignore all the unnecessary garnishes and enjoy the main dish.
The author presented among many other things, the life of a typical Igbo native, the beliefs and culture prevalent at the time, and how over the course of many years, things have changed. Thereby providing us a glimpse of the past and how it impacts the present.
Style, Setting and Language
We would rather not comment on the writer’s lack of style. But we did experience the traditional Igbo culture. The food, the music, and warm friendship among clansmen. Ibezi generously used proverbs to educate and refresh her readers and made Beyond the Heartbeat an even more appealing read. She didn’t just use proverbs/adages, she provided insight into the meaning of very many Nigerian proverbs. Little wonder it is often said that “The words of our fathers are words of wisdom.” We found many wise thoughts and phrases as we read, much to our delight and excitement. Ibezim helped us pick up some Igbo words/phrases while we read.
The setting, a typical Nigerian village setting.
The story made us think of the saying, ‘too many cooks spoils the broth”. The book was like a soup with spices that don’t go together. We thought that the author had too many plots in this one story. Some of which actually didn’t quite fit in, and made the reader wonder how many books they were reading at the same time. We thought the writer could have decided what her focus was and stuck with it. There will always be other opportunities to tell the other stories.
And if this book were (well written and) a song, it would be Christy Essien-Igbokwe – “Seun Rere.” Every mother surely wants the best for their child/children.
Chef’s Verdict: Meh!
We score this book 2.5 stars
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