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Book Review by Dalton Cox

Last update - Saturday, February 15, 2014, 02:44 By Metro Éireann

The Echo of a Troubled Soul By Joy C Agwu(The Manuscript Publisher)

Nigerian-born author Joy C Agwu made her literary debut in 2013 with her novella The Echo of a Troubled Soul. Set in her home country, the slim volume (which tallies a mere 60 pages) traces the lives of two childhood friends, Jane and Nora, who inadvertently become involved in the recovery of Tom, an elderly alcoholic with a tragic past.
The young women re-encounter Tom after witnessing a past display of the man’s extreme public drunkenness. Tom is cared for by his now-adult ward, Larry, a handsome young police officer who experienced his own troubled childhood.
As the lives of the four characters become intertwined, past secrets are uncovered, leading each character to ultimately find his or her own form of redemption.
The Echo of a Troubled Soul explores such topics as the psychological effects of tragedy, the motivation behind selfless charity and unconventional forms of family. But its most invocative attribute is perhaps its primary focus on the two female protagonists, both of which personify self-sufficiency and the virtues of the author’s Christian faith.
Like African literary innovator Chinua Achebe, Agwu’s prose is evocative of Nigeria’s tradition for oral storytelling. Agwu even allows her characters to recall lengthy poems, parables and recollections of past life-lessons, and through this technique she is able to concisely convey the novella’s numerous themes, often using aphorism to originally summarize a point on morality.
Potential readers should know that the story contains little external conflict and is not a plot-driven page-turner, but mostly consists of philosophical conversation related to the characters’ experience.
Where Agwu’s novella falls down compared to the likes of Achebe and other successful African English-language authors is in her struggle to incorporate her extremely traditional style of African storytelling successfully into her English prose. Her lack of syntactic fluency makes for often dawdling dialogue between a cast of predominantly flat characters.
Agwu’s novella offers a modern fable about overcoming tragedy, and this morality tale certainly consist of universal truths applicable to Nigerians and others readers alike throughout this often troubling world. However, the oversimplification of the syntax would perhaps make this text more fulfilling for young adults or readers just beginning to learn English as a second language.

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