To many of us, especially those living in developing countries, the thought of going “abroad” or living in the developed countries fills us with lots of excitement. These developed countries are usually associated with plenty of opportunities to a better if not more fulfilling life. Visit many a foreign embassy in any country in Africa, you will find long queues of people hoping to get the much coveted visa to the countries that seem to have it all. But what happens when they get there?
This is what the book The Land of Honey is all about. It follows the lives of two people; Zimako and Anuli. They are married and have lived in Nigeria all their lives, studied there and finally got employed there. All seems to be going on well but the decadence of the ruling government disheartens Zimako. He believes the country is on a downward spiral, things are running out of control. He decides that the best solution is to try and start afresh in another country, where there are better organized and developed systems – “…….he felt confident that it was the right thing to do, and that life would be much better out there. It was a structured society with checks and balances, effective law enforcement—with the net result that there was little or no corruption—a meritocracy, a fair society. Most of all, he felt it would offer their children a better life”.
Four years later, they are granted Canadian citizenship. They depart for Canada (amidst protests from people at home), with lots of dreams but what awaits them are challenges; challenges only the strong hearted can face.
So what makes starting a new life in a foreign country, and in this case Canada difficult? Zimako and Anuli simply can’t get jobs. Whereas they were considered successful with topnotch jobs back home, here they can’t seem to find the same kind of jobs they had; simply because they lack the Canadian experience. You will feel their frustrations as their dreams fall apart, you will feel sorry for them when they are sucked into paying their little savings for a private company that claims to help immigrants tap the hidden job market- a sugar-coated but empty promise. As one reads on, one feels the title is no longer The Land of honey, but The Land of Unending Challenges. Their once loving relationship is torn as they all blame each other for the different turns their lives have taken. They all seem to seek solace elsewhere which divides them further apart.
But the author doesn’t leave the reader in a state of hopelessness (though I couldn’t help but wonder what happened to some characters like Ndudi), the strong character in Anuli is admirable- despite the many challenges and lack of support from her husband, she seems to wade through with lots of determination which finally pays off. After so many unyielding interviews, and with the help of a friend, Zimako finally gets off his high horse and goes for a blue collar job; it is this job that will link him to a greater job opportunity. A counselor had told them to “set sights lower, get some……experience and hope for a fast track trajectory”. This had proved to be the best advice anyone could give them.
The book makes for an insightful read into what it is like to be an immigrant- trying to settle in a foreign land in search of a better life. The author being an immigrant herself means that she indeed understood the plot and gave an excellent view into what it really means to start afresh in a foreign land. The reader will also have a glimpse into the Nigerian traditional marriage ceremonies.
Published in 2014 by Total Recall Publications, The Land of Honey is Chinenye’s debut novel. She is Nigerian but currently lives in Canada.