By Ikenna Bede
What Harrison Okhueleigbe achieves instantly in the opening pages of his novel, “Under the Moonlight” is his ability to give the reader permission to travel to the past and peer through the eyes of their younger selves. It is a liberating force from the daunting role of adulthood.
In that portion designated as part one of the three-part piece, the writer details a partly fictionalised account of his juvenile years through the character, Harrison Edeghonghon. He also introduces each member of his family using thorough descriptions that paint vivid pictures of their personalities and the overall family dynamics. This climaxes with the introduction of his maternal grandmother, Nene, who plays a major role in the second part of the book.
The second part places Nene in charge of conjuring and modifying folklore that lets his imaginations run wild. Within that span, Okhueleigbe manages to highlight some of the familial values that guided his family.
In fact, Edeghonghon’s generation shows a marked shift from his parents’ upbringing. His upbringing is influenced by Western cultures, which makes it difficult to pick up all the necessary values. Here, he admits to having difficulty speaking his native language of Esan.
Asides touching on transitions in socio-cultural trends, it also reflected how systems have changed over time with the help of technology. A good thing! For example, the transport system that he found difficult to comprehend.
At the core of the novel, the message borders on the passing down of morals from generation to generation by word of mouth through fabled accounts.
In trying to relay his childhood memories, Okhueleigbe inadvertently continues where his Nene stops: by passing such moral tales to the next generation. This comes apt at a time when globalisation has lessened physical contact and reduced prioritising of the extended family. He achieves this in two ways.
Firstly, the book serves as a reminder to contemporary parents about the importance of preserving cultural norms in a form that is accessible. On the other hand, it exposes younger individuals who otherwise have never had such an experience to internalise and appreciate their culture/value system while expanding their creative horizons.
Descriptive prose, Okhueleigbe, however, suffers in certain areas. In an attempt to guide the reader through the different happenings, he ends up being repetitive in his expositions. This is a forgivable flaw though.
Meanwhile, his greatest strength remains his use of simple tenses, thus making the 142-page prose an easy read. He is consistent with this technique.
By and large, “Under the Moonlight” serves as a link to the great past that helps inspire all to build an even greater future using nuggets of wisdom nestled in beautifully written words.