Book Review: Echoes from the Past

The Fiction Addiction
Echoes from the Past(cover art from the publisher)

Tayo Emmanuel's new novel Echoes From The Past is written in Nigerian English, which helps establish the setting early on. Just like in the novel Americanah and then in the memoir Chicken Hero, I enjoyed the rhythm of Nigerian English. For readers who aren’t ESL teachers, that means British vocabulary with the occasional unusual choice of prepositions and sentence structure. There’s a glossary in the back, if a food name or piece of local slang is confusing, but most of the time, I could figure it out from context.

The narration is first-person, changing between Tara, her husband Tokunbo and her friend Daisy. This lets readers really connect with our three main characters.

The shifting perspectives can be slow-moving in parts, because we’re shown the same events from both Tara and Tokunbo’s viewpoints, but this creates a portrait of two people struggling in their marriage. Tara and Tokunbo both want to be understood by their partner, but keep failing in their attempts to understand. For example, when Tara is abruptly laid off, Tokunbo completely misses her sadness and regret, and congratulates her on her newfound free time and lower stress. Normal married life, like struggles with in-laws (Tara’s MiL is an overbearing, realistic nightmare!) and career choices, has taken its toll on the couple, plus their inability to have a baby strains their relationship.

Tokunbo has challenges being faithful to Tara, not because he doesn’t love her, but because his friends are often bring their sexy girlfriends out with them. It’s hard for him to keep his mind on his wife, although at least he keeps his hands to himself. In one part, Tokumbo mentions wanting to have more friends from church, and wishing that church-goers could be more interesting and have more interesting things to talk about. Such a realistic, honest moment, that even when Tokunbo did things I didn’t quite approve of, I still felt connected to him.

Tara is struggling with infertility, as well as a secret that makes her blame herself for it. Good thing she has her best girlfriend Daisy to help her through.

Over the course of the novel, Daisy has to cope with more than her fair share of setbacks. A layoff, a pregnancy, romantic troubles and family responsibilities could weigh her down, but instead she stays cheerful. Don’t we all have one friend like that? I think Daisy and Tara’s friendship was just as vital and developed as Tara and Tokunbo’s marriage, The two girlfriends support each other, and their friendship is vital to healing both women’s lives.

A loving, but realistic, look at how our choices affect our lives and the value of caring friends.

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