Title: Men Don’t Die
AUTHOR: Ever Obi
Reviewer: Henry Akubuiro
Midway into Ever Obi’s debut novel, Men Don’t Die, I was templated to dismiss it as slushy; the plot seemed contrived, dependent on element of surprise – hackneyed at that –to move on. But, towards the end of the narrative, the author’s artifice begins to sink in, and you can’t but scream whoa! as the curtains fall with Brume Lauva’s rude reawakening.
Ever Obi’s Men Don’t Die is a hybrid of literary fiction and speculative fiction, the latter, a fiction that takes place beyond our known world. In particular, it reads like its subgenre of urban fantasy which takes place in an urban setting in the real world but operates under magical rules. There is a temporal setting and an otherworldly setting, and you have no way of knowing until the very end. In Men Don’t Die, also, episodic plot meets spontaneous flashbacks, and they create lambent embers.
In this spectacular narrative, the sudden death of Brume’s father triggers a chain of reactions for the protagonist that unveils the tragedy of life. Life can be cruel, folks. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how hard you try to stand on your feet as a man, there are invisible powers that tend to pull you down, leaving you hopeless and wishing to die. The society doesn’t understand why you are a failure. This books brings out the bewildering side of life when a man is pushed to the wall. Does he surrender to the pangs of woes and watch niceties fleet away?
Men Don’t Die also tells a love story. What today’s youths see as love is more like a momentarily flicker of passion. Who bothers about the true meaning of love anymore? Here, relationship is just for convenience. Once a seemingly better option appears on the horizon, you jettison what you got already and begins to moan on the arms of another partners, regardless of the turmoil occasioned by your volte-face. Oftentimes the damage has already been done before you even realise your folly. Unrequited love can make a man die before his death, however.
Is there another world aside from where we live? Fairy tales make us think there is. Movies bring images of the netherworld clearer to our world, and the Bible tells us it is in the heaven, a paradise we should all aspire to. Ever Obi brings the netherworld closer home with his titillating fiction, and the netherworld here isn’t that of ghosts rending havoc without let but of ghosts living a normal life like us, finding and making love, drinking beverages to satiety and, above all, nursing their ambitions.
“Daddy, please, come inside,” Brume welcomes his father, Eddie, when he pays him a surprise visit one day at home; he was supposed to be at work. Unknown to him, his father has die at work. The benevolent ghost tells him, “I’ve never liked your perception of money. You see money as everything, and you have to change that thinking”.
Indeed, his son cuts the image of a frustrated Nigerian youth in his response, “Daddy, how do you expect me to be happy? It’s been five years since I left school, and I still haven’t got a job, I still live in this shithole that I call apartment… Let’s not even talk about marriage. I need money to keep a family. I need to be happy.”
Brume’s father responds that he is unemployed because he has chosen to be. He would like him to join him a factory worker while looking for a better job. Brume is a graduate of Petroleum Engineering from FUTO, Owerri, and wouldn’t like to descend so low. “If you can take the job at the factory, it would be a huge step towards your pursuit of happiness,” his father insists, adding that he should marry his heartthrob, Yaya, whom he has been dating for three years.
When Brume receives a call by one Dr. Dobi from Heartsy Hospital informing him to report to the hospital, that his father was involved in a fire accident at work, he doesn’t believe it. How could that be when he has just spoken to his dad? The reality is to dawn on him when, on getting to the hospital, he confirms the truth: the man he spoke with a while ago wasn’t his father but his ghost.
From that moment, the novel becomes a jigsaw puzzle, waiting to unravel its meanings. The Brume-Yaya and Yaya-Ibe love triangle keeps you on the edge of your seat. To make matters worse, Brume loses his factory job for no due reason and Yaya’s love, too. Yaya won’t marry him because he has no money; Ibe has. Suicide becomes an option, but he is saved at the last minute.
The author delays the inevitable to a longer while. Yaya’s friend, Turmi, steps in to feel the vacuum, but that love is cut short when Brume chances upon abandoned bags of money in Port Harcourt owned by a gang of robbers led by Barrel, and flees to Lagos. On the way, he gets involved in an accident, and everybody dies. But his ghost rather lives on.
The mystery of life after death is explored in this novel in a manner we have not seen since the publication of Amos Tutuola’s The Palmwine Drinkard. The reappearance of Barrel in Lagos at a time Brume has become a successful business man changes the dynamics of the narrative. He has even reconnected with his bosom friend, Nnamdi in Lagos, after not seeing each other for eight years. Even Barrel himself doesn’t know how he got to Lagos, having leaped out of a two-storied building when being hunted by a team of policemen.
From Tife to Lisa, Brume is having the best of romance after Yaya. Barrel eventually runs into Brume, and alerts him the neighborhood they are staying in ikoyi is strange. The smokescreen is beginning to wear off. But it isn’t until the little boy called Judas tells him they are all dead and have been living in netherworld that Brume accepts the reality. He now realises that he has been in coma for 12 days, yet has lived twelve years in a strange world. Did Brume eventually come back to life? Did he marry Yaya? Find out for yourself by reading this engrossing new fiction.