First published in 2002, The Moon Also Sets is a fascinating story set in Isiakpu, a typical African Village in Nigeria and the University of Embakassi, a modern African university. It is a story that revolves around two women- mother and daughter but what makes it more exciting is that it was written by a man and the women turn out to be the heroes of the story.
Mama Oby is a widow, who is a devoted Christian and has set her mind on raising her children and giving them a good education. She is a strong woman but also kind and generous- virtues which don’t go well with her brother in-law, Pa Okolo, who tries to in vain to make her life hell. He is a cowardly bully who gets other people to do his dirty work.
Despite being illiterate, Mama Oby knows that the education of her children, more so her daughter, Oby, will bring about a big difference in her family. And as a widow in Usiakpu, she knows only too well the difficulties that women face in her community. Oby is an auxiliary teacher, but her dream is to join university. The story evolves as Oby is admitted in university, and mother and daughter struggle to push through the challenges brought about by male chauvinism present in both traditional and modern settings.
When Oby joins University, she hopes life would be different since people would be educated, but the challenges she encounters are sometimes unbearable. Before, she had her mother to offer advice, now she is the key decision maker. She sums up the university as:
“The jungle is full of traps. You skip one; you are caught in the other. You can never be immunized against the attacks. You have to hop, skip and jump”.
For a budding writer – this was Ogbu’s first book -, the story is an interesting read. The way he blends tradition and modernity makes The Moon Also Sets, rather captivating- one can’t help backing the two women in their fight against rigid traditions and many other challenges. Ogbu, however, sticks to familiar territory, by highlighting the Osu (caste) system and traditional gods – themes that are common in books from many other Nigerian authors.