Title: Beyond Expectations
Author: Reward Akwu
Publisher: Ollybell Printing Resources, Port Harcourt
Reviewer: Boye Salau
Whatever prompted Reward Akwu to engage in literary prose writing cannot, with the extreme form of clarity, be dismissed as inconsequential. Like all other journalists, Akwu is a man whose profession and the hurricane of economic survival in Nigeria would hardly allow him to venture on a literary expedition.
What then is the driving force? Could it be his personal childhood experience, or the turbulent experience of someone dear to him? Maybe, maybe not.
Whatever the reasons, there is no doubt that the various turbulent experiences of life’s baffling paradoxes are the afflat that makes the zephyr of history a reality.
In a country where many people are unsure of the next meal, Beyond Expectations clearly captures the reality of being from a poor background.
The book is somewhat nostalgic for the plight of an average Nigerian in the village and eases the common man’s heart with the age-old cliché: where there is life, there is hope.
The theme of the book can be located in the fortunes of many people who rose from life’s bottomless creek and abyss to fame. The Abiolas, Jonathans, Amaechis fall into this category.
Written in simple narrative form with sublime simplicity, devoid of nebulous words and oratorical fantasy, the 136-page novel thematizes the pains and despair of a brilliant high school student whose intoxicating power and gluttonous appetite for sexual love with his classmate and child of a ruthless gladiator with huge lubricants, became his albatross. It is the equivalent of the story of Adam being sent out of the Garden of Eden for his inability to resist Eve’s apple.
How Chinedu got out of his dilemma is what readers of Beyond Expectations should find out for themselves.
As expected of a book that has its anthropology in the local setting, communal love, family, and filial affection are persuasive in this literary enterprise. The author proves that in a society where family ties are rare and where the only thing that the rich nourish for the poor is hatred, the milk of kindness still flows in the veins of some.
At the same time, the book raises the age-old conundrum of ersatz social class and unwittingly illustrates the yawning gap that exists between Teflon rulers and hoipolloi.
Akwu’s keen understanding of village life and his ability to capture the lives and times of ordinary people in graphic detail further enrich the book’s delivery. Although sometimes too elaborate in detail, the author manages to send his message to readers using simple diction and local language where necessary.
Unlike many books that are often built on hyperbolic and outlandish imagery, Beyond Expectations is compellingly obsessed with deeply touching images and the realities of life that are both alluring and disconcerting. In my assessment, the book is a fascinating nugget that appeals to all classes, ages, and genders.
Although the author tries to make the book flow from page to page, the book could not resist the temptation of unnecessary details, repetitions and avoidable typographical errors.
Once again, the book is most deficient, or better still not enough in suspense. A better application of literary suspense regarding what finally happens to Chinedu would have made the book more intriguing and interesting.
These few shortcomings can, however, be excused being Reward’s first literary expedition into the world of literature.
Without an obsessive sense of pure criticism, Beyond Expectations lives up to its name. It is enough for what it is supposed to do, namely to strengthen lost hope, to encourage the poor not to be discouraged by their poor background, while reminding the rich that no condition is permanent in life.
And until one reads the book from page to page, and chapter to chapter, one cannot fully appreciate the intrigue and metaphor of this thrilling reality woven like fiction.
By: Boye Salau