Chinua Achebe gives the reader a look at primitive culture in rural Nigeria. The culture does make a lot of sense…polygamy for example, but with the arrival of whitey, the times…they are a changing. That does not sit well with the story’s leading man, Okonkwo. Kind of the Archie Bunker of the Umuofia clan. He is old-school and has some anger management issues.
The most compelling piece of the story is after receiving the spoils of a settlement with a neighboring tribe, Arch grows a heart. That’s right Meathead. Part of the spoils is supervision of a young lad from the other tribe. He is a smidge older that Okonkwo oldest son, so of course the younger boy adores him.
In time, the captive boy becomes well-regarded by his alpha step-Dad. The kid is tough, bright and a great example for the younger boys. However, after many years, the village elders get around to deciding the case of the captive boy and the verdict is why are we wasting yams on him? Just kill him. Okonkwo’s buddy, sensing the damage that will be done pleads with Okonkwo to sit this one out.
Okonkwo, always sensitive about his humble beginnings, can never let an opportunity to enhance his street cred go by. He affirms his commitment to the old ways in one reluctant machete stroke and after that, it’s all downhill for him. His favorite daughter falls ill, then is gun explodes and kills a bystander. For the latter, the elders banish him from the village for 7-years.
When he returns there is a Christian Church in the village, which initially only attracts the dregs of society, but continues to gain a higher level of convert. Eventually Okonkwo’s own estranged eldest son is down with JC. The inevitable face-off with the new European authorities occurs, and you can’t fight City Hall, so the Igbo ways fall into decline.
Yams, seed yams, yam barns, yam foo-foo, kola nuts, snuff bottles, cowries and pots of palm-wine, whether you enjoy the story or not, the book is a trip.