BOOK REVIEW: Mechanics of Yenagoa


By Shamsudeen Sani

Author: Michael Afenfia
Date of Publication 2020; Number of Pages 305
Publisher Masobe Books

This is the 4th novel by Michael Afenfia, the rest being When the Moon Caught Fire, A Street Called Lonely, Don’t Die on Wednesday and Paxoid. But I haven’t read any of his books before now yet I was drawn by the beautiful cover and the nice print of this book.

The book is a beautiful but noisy exploration of complex social parameters and struggle for survival and individual personal crisis. I disagree that this is entirely a social commentary of our modern Naija because as gripping and enjoyable as the story is, the monotonous social layer of the characters doesn’t allow for broad generalization as one might expect here.

While it’s not very obvious in the book, it must have been set sometimes in 2017/2018 in Yenagoa, Bayelsa, Nigeria, before the 2019 general elections. The chief protagonist is Ebinimi, an urban bozo, in his 30s with an uncommon penchant for causing trouble. He found himself in Yenagoa from a distressing family upbringing being alone with an equally or more ferocious sister Ebiakpo who’s also entangled in myriad of matrimonial shenanigans. I would have loved the book to be all about her intriguing lifestyle.

The book is full of tacky tales of Ebinimi doing and consuming all the wrong things in his personal life and the people around him. Whether he’s involved with huge sum of money left by one of his clients, his dodgy girlfriend gas lighting him, or his escapades that push him into the abyss of a vicious cycle of social complications.

There’s an elaborate portrayal of Ebinimi’s apprentices initially as nonentities and talks about their silly but unconventional musical activities at the mechanic workshop. While that portrayal continued adnauseum in the book, it ended up abruptly without a wise closure. Related to the apprentices’ poor educational background, it’s great to see the use of pidgin English abundantly in the book but it makes me wonder if non-African readers might easily decode some of the story lines.

Mechanics of Yenagoa is a nifty little book, but it’s ridden with very very silly and cringe worthy errors. I was disappointed to see ‘highlighted’ instead of alighted in multiple pages of the book; ‘potion’ instead of portion; ‘asknowldged’ instead of acknowledged and many more. That’s unforgivable for such a fancy looking book. I was sad to see ‘were’ being interchangeably used as ‘where’. It’s a bit of a shame.

That just about does it for the Mechanics of Yenagoa. Now, go grab your copy and read it!


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