Ma’Kanu is a retired school headmistress who gave birth to only one child and adopted five others. She and her children lived in a house known as ‘grace orphanage’ and she gave the children the best of her love and care. This continued until her biological son decided to marry one of her adopted daughters which did not sit well with her and eventually led to a fissure in the family.
The story starts with ‘the gathering’. Four children – Ndike, Tobe, Somto and Ezinne – respond to an emergency call from home that their mother Ma’Kanu is dying. Ma’Kanu, who is in the last throes of death, makes a final demand of her children that her wake be held while she is still alive. The wake, she says, must be held with no tears and no sadness. The children must each tell her a story with random words she supplies them.
The first two stories told by Ezinne and Somto sound to Ma’Kanu as some sort of rebuke for her rejection of her son Kanu and her adopted daughter. In anger, she responds by telling a shocking story of her own, revealing the circumstances surrounding the birth of Somto who had always believed another story. Hurt by his mother’s callousness, Somto angrily leaves the wake.
The wake continues and Tobe tells his own story which is the most shocking of all because it is about a ghost coming back to haunt Ma’Kanu. Ma’Kanu is incensed by the story and says she never wants to lay eyes on Tobe again.
After learning about his true parents, Somto sets out to find his mother. His mission turns out to be too late because his mother is long dead. But he finds his half sister in the most interesting manner.
Ma’Kanu dies the same night of her wake.
Nwokolo’s One More Tale for the Road is quite an interesting piece and it tells the story of a resilient spirit. Ma’Kanu can be said to be a victim of her own experience for holding a grudge with her son till she died but that does not draw away from the sacrifices she had to make or the unconditional love she gave to her children. The stories told in this book though fictitious bear a ring of truth to them and offer insight into love, forgiveness, greed, jealousy and betrayal. They highlight the influence our parentage plays in the choices we make and how our environment shapes us.
This is a great pice of work by Chuma Nwokolo, and quite an interesting narrative.