“We Yoruba believe in a cycle of life. A person dies and passes to the spirit world only to return to the land of the living. I have struggled with this concept in many ways. The last and first breaths for instance, how much time is between? The knowledge acquired in one life, at what point is it forgotten?”

I constantly need to read or reread books before watching the movie adaptation of these books. That explains why I reread this book. The recently released movie, “Swallow” by Kúnlé Afọláyan, has sincerely not been getting as much buzz as I’d expect. But till I finally watch the movie and can compare the book and the movie, I guess you’re stuck with this book review.

This book revolves mostly around Tọ́lání Àjàó, a beautiful young woman who is struggling to make ends meet. She has a roommate, Rose Adamson, whose character is very different from Tọ́lání’s. Where Tọ́lání is calm and gentle, Rose is spirited, fierce, and one of the biggest risk-takers you might find around. Despite the differences that separated them there was a lot that brought them together. First was the fact that they worked at the same place. Then came the shared struggles like; meagre pay, bad relationships, family history shrouded in some mystery amongst others. Amidst all of these troubles came an opportunity to make more money but it was something that went against Tọ́lání’s moral standards putting her in a dilemma.

“If anyone claimed that they smuggled drugs because they were poor, they were lying. Poor people begged. They were all over the streets: lepers, cripples, and the blind. They walked around barefoot and put out their hands to pray, mostly to Allah, for alms. Kobo coins. Pittance. So what would a jury say to women like Rose and me? “Why couldn’t you beg?” We were not poor enough, is what that question amounted to. We wanted shelter and expected two meals a day and had enough pride to wear clothes that were not dirty and tattered.”

I enjoyed reading this book. I mean, it’s Sefi Atta. I thoroughly enjoyed how simple it was and how one could connect with the characters. However, I had a little problem with the idealistic perspective from which the book ended- the need for something good to happen to Tọ́lání. But then, I also understand why it had to be so. I strongly recommend this book not because it is spectacular, or a happy book, but because it’s gentle on the heart and calming to the soul.

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