Title: Sunny Side of Midnight
AUTHOR: Tope Adeboboye
Publisher: Stay Alive International
REVIEWER: Henry Akubuiro
Virtuoso writers know how to detain your attention from the opening pages. Once you are hooked, there is no letting go. This Tope Adeboboye does brilliantly in his debut novel, Sunny Side of Midnight. The paradoxical title leads you straight in medias res to a scary, dreamy scene where the protagonist, Adaba, is being pursued by a strange figure after a prized bag he unearthed from the Big Forest.
In these twists and turns, the path of Adaba is strewn with vicissitudes. A boy whose parents died when he was a kid and was brought up by his grandmother, he is a proverb for shattered dreams. When you think there is a glimmer of hope for him, he is buffeted by another pang all of a sudden. Adeboboye presents a character, who, though is financially and emotionally pulverised, refuses to resign to sad fate.
But this work is not solely about Adaba’s forsaken existence. Sunny Side of Midnight is a satire on Africa’s postcolonial condition concealed in prevarication. It also revisits the reality of predestination and its baggage in African civilisation. Besides, it is an expose on religiosity in this part of the world. Both the servants of God and the custodians of the gods operate with wiles and guiles. Adeboboye invites us to look at our contemporary society and reimagine it without customary trammels.
Sunny Side of Midnight is a story told with a racy pace and ornamental verbiage, making you to visualise the atmosphere being created with his descriptive power. For instance, on page 20, he depicts the killing of a child by a madman: “A gory mix of flesh and shattered bone littered the rock, as streaks of blood flowed down its dark side. Cries of agony rent the air. Some women held their breasts in utmost bewilderment, as others turned back and fled.”
This is a work laced with symbols. We have places in the fictional Anija setting like Restoration Street and Sanity Street which are opposite of what they stand for. Despite the edification of Sanity Street, Adaba queries the sanity of the street as he beholds a madman there: “Is Sanity Street still very insane?” (p. 22). Humour abounds, too, in this fiction, as flat characters strive to make light of awkward living.
Apart from Adaba, the main character, Adeboboye’s novel teems with interesting characters and archetypes. Say Parry, an outsider, becomes an unexpected friend in need to the distressed Adaba, and Adaba, who fears the landlord’s daughter and femme fatale, Shakira, is shocked to realise she could be a saving grace when the chips are down and a possible better half.
Interestingly, Adeboboye’s chapters begin with dates: Wednesday, March 14, Thursday April 19…., which makes it easier for the reader to keep track of unfolding developments.
For a taste of social incongruity, let’s go to Restoration Road where driving is a ride in agony: “Potholes littered every section of the road, causing considerable gridlock every evening. Almost on a weekly basis, a number of crashes, some quite fatal, consistently occurred on the road” (p. 16). Through the lens of Adaba, we are made to see the physical and moral stasis in the society.
The sorry trajectory of Adaba, an otherwise brilliant young man, who graduated in flying colours, in securing a good job deserving of his competence, raises a question mark on how we treat our best brains. Here, we see good positions reserved for preferred candidates of politicians, with those who passed the interviews falling by the wayside. Though Grace, Adaba’s course mate, graduated with third class, Adaba is shocked to see her driving a big car and is comfortable with a good job and other businesses, no thanks to a curious system.
In Adaba’s search for solutions for his problems, he is introduced to the popular Chief Priest of Okiripampa, Chief Julius, who was compelled to leave the comfort of America to serve the god of his fatherland. But the man at Okiripampa Palace, Kanaki, turns out to be a more humane person than the selfish men of God he encountered, like Prof Jeff John-Josh of Holy Thunder Fire Church.
Adeboboye leads us to the house of Mama Oniru, Adaba’s grandmother who reveals to the visiting Chief Priest of Okiripampa the length she went to ensure Adaba was born, following a spiritual assistance from the dubious Akorigbe, near Atakpame in Togo, and the difficult conditions set for him by the native doctor, including guiding him jealously in the village until the age 30 years, which didn’t work, as Adaba travelled to the city for university education via a scholarship.
To resolve the conflict of man versus the gods, Adeboboye uses the chief priest of Okiripampa to provide a little succour, but he is disappointed and has to resign his position when Adaba suffers a life threatening accident. For the chief priest, the gods have failed him after assuring no further harm would come on the young man. The icing on the cake for the embattled Adaba is a new rebirth occasioned by a strange sun that shines at midnight as he watches from his recuperating bed!
This is a titillating read, well crafted.