Welcome to Mannobe, a village with its own personality. It is clear from the onset that Chioma Okereke is a wordsmith, which shines through as her narrative is rich in language. From the sights and sound of Mannobe village, to its exotic taste and colourful characters, with unusual names like Allegory, Jericho, Driver, Guitar and Babylon, Okereke paints a story canvass that pulls you in and makes you want to know each person.
Bitter Leaf is a story which revolves around life in Okereke’s imagined village of Mannobe, a community that is African in nature but not specific in geography to any African nation. A tactical writing skill which makes Okereke’s themes universal as she writes about a community where each person is on a journey to find that ‘thing,’ which brings them fulfilment as represented by Jericho’s longing to escape to the big city and Babylon’s hunger for her love.
Chioma Okereke weaves a poetically evocative story, rich in texture and vivid descriptions as it is emotionally accessible and moving. If there is a fault to be found, it is the fact that it takes a while to get into the story as Okereke takes time to lay the foundation. This could put a lazy reader off but if you are a person who likes to be challenged by a book, once you get into the story, you do not want to drop it. All in all, this is a delightful and impressive debut novel.
Belinda Otas (http://belindaotas.com) is a London-based journalist, writer and blogger. She is interested and passionate about Africa and loves theatre. In fact, she is a theatre fanatic, and reads a lot of novels and short stories by writers of African descent, but sprinkles it with her love of novels and works by authors from different parts of the world. Belinda is currently working on her first stage play.