Penguin Group Canada| April 10, 2012| Trade Paperback| ISBN 978-0-14-318611-3
Spirited and intelligent Morayo grows up surrounded by school friends and family in busy modern-day Ibadan, Nigeria. An adoring little sister, their traditional parents, and a host of aunties and cousins make Morayo’s home their own. So there’s nothing unusual about her charming but troubled cousin Bros T moving in with the family. At first Morayo and her sister are delighted but in her innocence, nothing prepares Morayo for the shameful secret Bros T forces upon her.
Thrust into a web of oppressive silence woven by the adults around her, Morayo must learn to fiercely protect herself and her sister from a legacy of silence many women in Morayo’s family share. Only Aunty Morenike – once shielded by her own mother – provides Morayo with a safe home and a sense of female community that sustains her as she grows into a young woman in bustling, politically charged often violent Nigeria.
Morayo was 5-years-old when her baby ‘albino’ sister, Eniayo was born. She was shocked to see that her baby sister was white with pink eyes and she was afraid to hold her for the first time but did so out of respect. This was the very first day that the word “afin” exploded into her world, meaning ‘albino’ and believed to bring bad luck to her entire family. Following Yoruba tradition, Eniayo’s naming ceremony was held eight days after her birth. That’s when the neighbours began talking: “Where do you think this ‘afin’ child come from?” Another neighbour had said: “I just know that this is not a good thing…these ‘afin’ children, all they do is bring bad luck.” A few days later, Morayo’s father’s great-grand Aunt, Iya Agba, the oldest person in her father’s family came to see the baby and she was absolutely livid the child was a ‘afin’! She blamed Morayo’s mother saying she caused the child to be born an albino by walking in the hot sun at noontime during her pregnancy thereby giving “mischievous evil spirits the opportunity to occupy her human body.” Morayo’s mother hung her head in total shame with tears streaming down her face while great-aunt Iya screamed: “Your disobedience has brought bad luck to this poor child and to our entire family!” To show her great and continued displeasure with Morayo’s mother, she refused to eat the special meal that had been prepared for her, and refused to sleep in their home that night and demanding to be taken to another relatives house. Morayo was upset that her mother was so sad and crying, that great aunt had yelled at her and refused her food and told herself it was all baby Eniayo’s fault. Her family had been happy and full of laughter until “she” came along, and now it was full of tears, shouting, and sadness. In the first few weeks Morayo refused to even go near Eniayo constantly amking up escuses as to why she couldn’t help with her or hold her. Besides, Aunty Adunni had come to stay for a while to help out, she was one of her mother’s relatives. However, Morayo’s mother finally caught up to her one day and asked her: “What is chasing you?” She confessed that she was afraid of Eniayo, a “spirit child” and what great-aunt Iya Agba had said.” Her mother put her arm around her and told her: “…your sister is not a spirit child. She is ‘afin’ due to some things the doctors call recessive genes.” She continued on for a few more minutes explaining more of what the doctors had said. Morayo didn’t understand most of it, but was overjoyed to know she didn’t have to sleep at night with one eye open anymore and that she had nothing to be ashamed about over her little sister. Finally, as the days and months passed, she no longer noticed her sister’s pale pink eyes and instead only saw an “annoying little girl, calling my name and determined to follow me everywhere I went.” Eventually, as the years passed, Eniayo’s features, yellowish hair, pink eyes, and milky white skin became as familiar and welcome to Morayo as the sun in the sky.
Morayo is now ten-years-old and Eniayo almost five. They live in Ibadan, Nigeria in a block of six flats along the busy Poly-Sango Road. The flat has three bedrooms on the second floor of an old building with bold red letters painted above the front door telling visitors they were entering Remilekun House. Remilekum was Baba Landlord’s late mother. Morayo and Eniayo shared a bedroom and woke each morning to the minibus driver calling out their next destinations which for them was their alarm clock. Lucky for them Lake Eleyele was right across the road.
After school each day the girls roamed the streets together with their friends. Their father was a pharmaceutical salesman who often travelled and their mother had her tailor shop at the Amunigun Market and didn’t come home until late in the evening. Aunty Adunni stayed home with the girls and was always busy dong household chores.
In February of 1984, the family moved out of their 3-bedroom flat into a new two-storey house on Eleyele Road, which was just minutes from their old neighbourhood. The rooms were bigger and the louvres on the windows opened completely inside their black, burglar-proof metal casing. Their father had begun building the house shortly after Eniayo was born and was proud it was finally complete as they now had something to show for all the years of hard work. Morayo liked the new house because she and her sister now had their own bedrooms. Eniayo didn’t like sleeping alone, so she still went to Morayo’s room at night.
Eniayo turned seven-years-old three months after they moved into the new house. Their second cousin, Aunty Morenike and her three-year-old son, Damilare came to visit. Eniayo was so excited to see them and Damilare blurted out that his Mommy had made her a birthday cake.
The following morning, Aunty Tope showed up for a visit too and they hadn’t seen her in two years. It was sad though as she didn’t have her son, Bros T (Tayo) with her. Later Morayo went to find her mother and realized she was in her bedroom with her sister, Aunty Tope. She was just about to knock on the door when she heard someone crying and it was Aunty Tope. She heard Aunty Tope say: “Tayo has finished me, imagine the audacity to slap your own principal! And this past holiday, he and his friend, Abu stole a suitcase full of foreign currency from Abu’s father. That boy almost slept in prison. I have nowhere else to turn, I cannot send him to live with his father’s people and this kind of behaviour, what would they think of me? I want him to finish his education here and he needs to go to university but he needs the firm hand of a man to guide him.” Morayo knew that Aunty Tope’s husband had died so Tayo no longer had a father. Suddenly Morayo realized footsteps were coming toward her so she fled to her bedroom. Now that she was twelve she understood well what was going on.
It took Morayo’s mother three months to finally cave to her demand to have Bros T move from Jos to Ibadan to live with them. The following week the now six foot Bros T swaggered into their home with a cocky smile. The family’s troubles would soon begin and Morayo would pay a high price for the rest of her life. The only stability and real sense of a family closeness she would have would be Aunty Morenike.
Daughters Who Walk This Path is a phenomenal story and one which I didn’t want to see end. I hope Ms. Kilanko will consider writing a sequel to it someday. If you want an intense, can’t-take-your-eyes-off-the-page read, then this is the book for you. I’m keeping it as part of my permanent collection. Excellent, excellent novel.