No story is a straight line.Chioma Okereke
In BITTER LEAF, the lives of six characters intertwine in an idyllic village that is African in nature but never geographically placed. Set during a time of encroaching commercialisation, these colourful inhabitants of Mannobe try to get to grips with their changing situations, without losing themselves in the process.
Babylon, the gifted musician and local lothario captivated by the beautiful Jericho Lwembe newly-returned from the city… Jericho, struggling to settle back in at home after the life and relationship she left outside Mannobe… Mabel and M'elle Codón, twin sisters who run the village's most popular eatery and battle local politics alongside old age… Magdalena, Mabel's daughter, the latest casualty of Babylon's ephemeral brand of affection… and Allegory, the self-appointed visionary adopted decades earlier after fleeing his own home town…
Many things distinguish a place, its rolling hills or turquoise waters. There are civilisations that wear plates in their ears and others that wear hoops of gold. There are even cultures that kill their old before they become burdens on those that remain. Rituals are carried out all over the world at any given moment; some that everyone can relate to and some as foreign as a fire-walk in lands surrounded by snow. But many things unite people universally: births and deaths, gains and losses, departures and arrivals. If there was one thing Mannobans knew about, it was leaving, and they hadn't arrived at this way of thinking simply. Once upon a time, hundreds of years earlier, there had been much wailing and gnashing of teeth at the exodus of a loved one. Plenty eye-water had spilled into their red clay, contributing to its fertility and binding the people closer to the earth. Gradually, they learned that leaving wasn't always such a bad thing. Leaving engendered possibility, and allowed the growth of another emotion: hope. Hope and faith would always bring about return.
BITTER LEAF shortlisted for the 2011 Commonwealth Writers' Prize - Africa Best First Book