The Whispering Trees is a collection of stories, each with a unique outlook. There is no single theme that the stories follow, but all have a certain flair for dramatics; a sort of entertaining characterization that brings the stories alive, there is passion and magic, places and people we can relate to.
Twilight and Mist is a subtle interplay of the supernatural and everyday life. Ohikwo meets the reincarnation of his long dead mother. She dies in mockery of his mother’s first death, leaving him even more bereaved than before. The use of magic is not the main plot point, though it is woven intricately into the story, it does not overshadow it.
The Medicine Men of Mazade flits between magic and folklore. It is the story we tell beneath the skylight of lands far away; about evil witches and quests, except the evil witch is not evil as thought. When the two medicine men set out for a cure to the plague that has set upon their people, they are told the cure is the blood of the witch, the different ways they go to acquire it is what ultimately brought about their ends. This story particularly is my favourite as it recalls stories told to us in childhood, stories that we carry in ourselves and wish to tell, which is what Abubakar does with this.
The story of Kyakawa in Whirlwind has a mystery bend. It is not magic or spells that haunt her, but her natural beauty; a vortex of emotions, independence and aggravation all rolled into one consciousness to create the conundrum that is Kyakyawa. She is as fierce as she is relentless and her father has no way out of the snare that is his daughters’ beauty. The story, just like its name, rolls out like a fast paced wind, from birth to the misadventure that is Kyakyawa’s life until her final sleep, where she could lay beautiful till the end of time.
Following its diverse themes, there is Northern Nigeria through the eyes of a British woman, the same seen from a Nigerian born and bred family man. The life of a woman after marriage, after the glory, after all is said and done. This he portrays in Garbage Man where the scruples of being a wife in a Northern Nigerian household shows us Zainab, her desires, her needs and the suffocating power she feels her husband has over her. Closure speaks of a loss so great few can even imagine. Losing her husband on their wedding night, his bride carries that grief and hurt, until she finds closure in her last act against life itself. There is humour and intrigue in Pledge of Fidelity and Night Calls. These are stories that end yet, keep you wondering and asking, what if?
The crowning jewel of this collection, The Whispering Trees is perhaps the perfect example of Abubakar’s unique blending of mysticism and reality. It takes the reader deep into the mind of the character, and gives a better understanding of the other stories in the collection. Salim’s tale of loss, fear, acceptance and power is beautiful in that the narration is simplistic and poetic. It can be said that Abubakar writes as one might speak, soft and fragmented in places and strong in others. Losing his sight just before his graduation and marriage, Salim goes through bounds and leaps, from apathy, to anger, to hope and finally acceptance, which leads him to a gift that changes his life forever.
The stories told in this book touch on subjects that matter. Elegant in narration, they elevate common matters into things of beauty. These are tales we can tell for years to come.
Book: The Whispering Trees. Author: Abubakar Adam Ibrahim Publisher: Parresia Books pages:162
The reviewer, Habiba Malumfashi has her bio in the members’ profile section.