Title: When the Fog Lifts
AUTHOR: Seme Unuigbe-Eroh
Publisher: Masobe Books
REVIEWER: Henry Akubuiro
When you beat a child, do you expect him to keep quiet? Seme Unuigbe-Eroh doesn’t think so. Yes, love is a beautiful thing when the going is good. But when love gives way to misery for no just cause, unbidden tears are bound to let loose. Amid the tears are tales of how Cupid’s arrow has undone a febrile heart.
When the Fog Lifts is Unuigbe-Eroh’s response to a broken heart. She thought she had found true love. She put everything into the marriage, including being the breadwinner of the family, but suffered the neglect of Cinderella. Decorum was thrown to the dogs by her partner, as she recounts in this book, and the marriage collapsed. She has found her voice in this book, telling the world her own version of the story, nay, the ratcheting challenges of the marriage institution in today’s changing world.
Nevertheless, a cheerful mirth pervades the beginning of this book, despite its unhappy dots. In the family she grew up as a child, there were fond memories of love, care and gratitude, which gave her hope that hers was going to be a better story. She never knew what fate had in stock for her: she was about to build a castle in the air.
Following the trajectory of Unuigbe-Eroh in this book, you cannot but be impressed with the undertones of self-sacrifice and self-reliance of the African woman against the odds. In a society where the man is given to fending for everybody in the family, we see here a smart, self made lady, building herself professionally and taking care of her family. It is one way of rewriting the story of feminine, indolent conservatism.
In her prefatory note, the forty-two year old author hints on her upper middle class background living with her parents in Lagos before migrating to the US, and the unexpected fluctuation in fortune: “I was easygoing, not a fighter, very trusting, and a people pleaser. It was uncomfortable for me to ask for money. I was very independent, scared to assert myself and take what’s mine. And part of me was broken. The part that was broken didn’t attract the right type of partner” (p.x11).
The author further says: “I also lost myself on this journey, but I am finding myself again….Writing this book is a key tool in my healing journey. This book is about a girl who went through life blind; blind as a young girl; blind as an immigrant; blind as a girlfriend; blind as a woman; blind as a mother, and blind as a partner” (p. xiii).
Cracks in the marriage, she writes, started showing in her husband keeping malice and arguing over trifles. She tells us how she personally craved for leadership and partnership, but got “control”. She laments on page 57: “It is sad that a marriage or relationship like most things now is also about survival of the fittest, or survival of the baddest.”
Unuigbe-Eroh’s book also includes her critical readings of the society at large, relationship-wise, and dishing out food for thought for the reader to scrutunise and form their own opinions. It occurs in every chapter of the book. Writing on unhealthy competition, for instance, she says it breeds envy and negative situations: “Unhealthy competition is when you don’t stop yourself and you let competition take over and be negative” (p. 86).
Most cultures, she echoes, especially in Nigeria, still believe that women should submit to their husbands and be as malleable as possible, but she “is a true believer that men should lead their families, and their wives should support them, but doesn’t agree ” with the wife not having a voice at all” (p. 102).
The author narrates, over time, the spate of unfounded accusations, invasion of privacy, slander, paranoia and brainwashing began to take a toll on her, and she recoiled. She felt betrayed that her conversations were being recorded secretly by her hubby. Things got to a head, and her hubby suggested that they get a divorce. Hence, “After looking at the horizon for a speck of light and only saw darkness, I knew what had to be done… So after six months, I decided, and got a divorce,” she writes. (p. 141).
When the Fog Lifts is just one side of the story, as nobody has heard from the other side. Heart-rending as this story is, the dissonance in this partnership should serve as a guide to would-be wives and husband’s how to make the right choices.