The Mechanics of Yenagoa by Michael Afenfia: A Review
“Biodun, leave that thing. You when no dey go church sef, yet na you like to dey form holy pass. Make I tell you, God can bless anybody any which way. The same God when turn water to wine can turn pant to Benz.”
Michael Afenfia’s “The Mechanics of Yenegoa” is rip-roaringly hilarious, belly-deep laughter inducing, and chest-achingly funny. I laughed so much while reading the book that my partner told me they were going to leave me so I could marry the author (I’m not even kidding). The Mechanics of Yenagoa takes us on a vivid journey to the small but thriving city of Yenagoa where mechanic Ebinimi is either the most inept of individuals or the most guileless “guy-man” to ever walk the streets of the notorious south-south of Nigeria.
The book begins innocuously with a staged pregnancy and from then on it simply… doesn’t… stop! Ebinimi, his sister Ebiakpo and his host of mechanic sidekicks present the most colorful characters I have seen on the pages of a novel in a very long while. Through Ebinimi’s fortunes and misfortunes the writer paints a brilliant satire on the Nigerian society and its denizens be they religious leaders, politicians or small time thugs eager for a piece of the “national cake”.
One of the best things about this book is the characterization. Each character is an individual, who has a distinct voice, a distinct personality that shines through even without introductions and they grow, so gloriously throughout the development of the plot no matter how little their roles are. The characters are believable and more than that they are absolutely lovable. The reader finds themselves rooting for them no matter how badly they screw up through the pages. The main character “Ebinimi” changes quite a bit, matures, if you will, but some fundamental aspects of his attitude remain throughout. Not only does the writer get high praise from this humble Reviewer for his creation but he also gets accolades for creating a character whose unfailing optimism is unflappable even in the face of certain doom. He represents quite artfully the spirit of Nigerians the world over, that “e go better” attitude that drives the average Nigerian every day.
More than anything this book is completely believable. For literature, there always seems to be the requirement of suspending disbelief but with “The Mechanics of Yenegoa” that is unnecessary. The structure of the book is simple, divided into delicious bite size chapters that move so smoothly the reader is almost unaware of the transitions. Simple language, threaded with colorful Warri slangs that amuse. Sex, money, politics and religion often times side by side with the mundaneness of everyday living serves a titillating feast for the reader. All of that, with Yenagoa somehow fixing itself as a city with heart and excess in equal measure while it provides the perfect backdrop as events unfold.
The day I find a perfect book is the day I stop reading. For “The Mechanics of Yenegoa” I felt cheated at the end. While I don’t love giving spoilers so I can’t tell you exactly what the end was, I can say that I could not shake the feeling that the end was an easy way out for the Author. Endings are usually either my favorite thing in the world or my worst and this conclusion is definitely on the naughty list. Dear Author, while you are in fact god in this scenario don’t be a cruel one? We only like the benevolent ones. Ebinimi deserves much better.
Another thing was that the book read a little episodically, considering the origins of the plot as episodes on a blog, this makes sense. This isn’t exactly a bad thing. If you are a reader on the go, squeezing in time to read in-between tasks this is a great thing even. The plot could be split into maybe three novelettes but it does not detract from the fluidity of the story in any way but does make continuity a little erratic.
Here comes the most important questions.
Should you buy the book? Yes.
When is the best time to read the book? Whenever you’re in need of a good laugh.
4.5 out of 5 stars easily, this book has my heart.