As the years roll by I become more and more aware of the need to engage in those things I love. While reading is one of the most consistent hobbies I pursue, traveling is one hobby I wish I could explore more; I have not really indulged in it very much.
So as a gift to myself and a testament to the growing restlessness I was experiencing this year (not to mention the zombie routine I had adopted as a Lagos worker) I decided to travel to shake off the stress and the monotony. Alas, I couldn’t afford a trip out of the country because my finances weren’t looking that joyful. Then I recalled that a very good friend had invited me to visit her in Kaduna earlier in April and I had asked for a rain check. After confirming that the offer was still open, I made a firm decision to travel to Kaduna.
The first challenge was to determine my mode of transportation. I love road trips (I travelled from Ohio to Texas last year on the Greyhound) but my friend was skeptical about the state of our roads in Nigeria and the safety of traveling on them. After several consultations, I grudgingly paid for a ticket to travel for a week by air to Kaduna. Everyone I mentioned my planned trip to would raise an eyebrow and ask what business I had in Kaduna. I wasn’t perturbed I needed the escape from busy, noisy and aggressive Lagos so I looked forward to my trip with glee.
As a book lover, the surest way to enjoy a time away from work is to read! Fully convinced that I would have all the time to kick back, lounge and sink into the books I had read half way, I proceeded to lug a huge hard cover by Nora Roberts, a smaller paper back by an author I have never heard of before (Amy Tan) but whose writing had caught me and my sure stack of e-books (which obviously go with me wherever my phone goes)
My flight was on a Sunday morning.
Fun fact: I love to travel in the morning.
Once we had buckled in and taken off, my seat partner requested to see my book (it was the Nora Roberts book) I smiled and handed it over. This wasn’t new to me, people often requested to see what book I had in my hand (it has won me many a friend) once he returned the book, I settled in and soon got lost in the ‘Northern Lights’ by Nora Roberts.
My friend picked me up from the airport an hour later and we were soon off. As she pointed out the important sites in the city, I took a deep breath and smiled. The short vacation had started.
When I walked into my friend’s flat, naturally my eyes found her book shelf (like I zeroed in so fast) she had a few books lined up but the one that caught my eye as I scrutinized was An Abundance of Scorpions by Hadiza Isma El-Rufai.
The title gripped my attention instantly. I picked up the book the next day and read 75 % of it. The next day I rapidly completed it.
An Abundance of Scorpions was quite a surprising book because the story line was pretty unique. I don’t think I’ve ever come across any story similar to what I read in the book, then again I haven’t read all the books in the world! The plot was well laid out. The characters were good but the lead character, Tambaya was the most striking. She came across as this soft wonderful, accepting person, so loving and truly kind.
When you start the book, you don’t really expect that it would have a tragic beginning to it, so when that came I was taken aback and it made me follow the story more closely. Going to the themes explored, I found child trafficking, case of abandoned children, poverty, grief and the uncertainty of life after the death of a loved one, the secrets that can be revealed when a man dies, also the attitude of in-laws toward a widow, politics, corruption and several others.
I liked the way the conflicts came into the story, the minute you begin to sit back and enjoy the good parts of the lead character’s life, you find she has other issues to deal with. I like that the author put a vivacious character in the person of Esther, Tambaya’s friend who brings some spice into her life. It is Esther who acts as her main support system and holds her up in the most difficult periods. Every girl needs an Esther in her life.
The biggest conflict I think the lead character had to deal with was the moment where she had to assist her brother Aminu by permitting him to drop his son with her at the Orphanage where she was the Matron. The deception behind it all, choosing to help family over her values to the likely loss of her job if found out; while reading this part of the story I kept asking myself what would you have done if you were Tambaya.
The story moved really nicely for me.
My only problem was the way it ended. I had hoped that the romance between the lead character and Alhaji Surajo would develop. In a way it was good the author left it as it was. But she didn’t tell us what would happen to her brother’s son who had been brought into the orphanage as an abandoned child. Though she writes a possible end to the story in the reverie that the lead character falls into at the tail end of the book, I still felt the story should have been nicely rounded out.
It was a wholesome read. There was that hope that love can come again after the death of a loved one. For me it gave me a window into the life of a Muslim, the prayers they undertake five times a day, the celebration of Ramadan, the fasting and all the rites that go with it.
I fancied reading the book and I found the title most apt. An abundance of scorpions tells me of the many challenges that can assail one in life but the resilience of the lead character reflects that hope can come again and perseverance pays.
My trip to Kaduna couldn’t have been complete without the pleasure of the presence of An Abundance of Scorpions; an unexpected read, a delightful experience.
Have you read this book? Would you read it?
P.S: I got to visit Kajuru Castle in Kaduna, the view was magnificent.