Monday, November 15, 2010

44. Changes by Ama Ata Aidoo

Title: Changes
Author: Ama Ata Aidoo
Genre: Novel (Love Story)
Pages: 200
Publishers: African Writers Series
ISBN: 978-0-435910-14-3
Year of Publication: 1991

Changes by Ama Ata Aidoo is a love story that transcends the sub-genre within which it has been placed. Sometimes in our inability to classify a book we give it a classification readers would quickly agree. If one knows the culture and religious dynamics of Ghana, one would realise that Changes challenges a lot of the stereotypic mentality of Ghanaians, that the characters, some of which are the usual archetypal Ghanaians, were mostly opening new avenues of our social life and pushing the boundaries of what has become the norm in relationships, such as inter-cultural marriages and women divorcing their husbands.

In an age where anything practiced by our forebears is described as evil or colloquial, where people (educated) would gladly accept homosexuals and condemn polygamists, only because the former is accepted by the West and the  latter not, we read of an educated and independent, but married woman, Esi finding love in an already married man, Ali. Esi is married to Oko but feels suffocated by the presence of her husband, feels psychologically oppressed and so would not even offer him sex on the pretense of tiredness and work, so that when he 'jumped on' her one early morning, she treated it as marital rape and would later file for divorce. and having met and fallen in love with Ali, she would become the second wife of Ali.

Ama Ata Aidoo
However, her archetypal parents, especially her grandmother, wouldn't hear of this. They all found something very wrong with her and her decision to leave a monogamous marriage, where the husband is not even known to have concubines or cheat on her, only to enter a polygamous one and one that takes her across cultures and religions. Esi, though is not your usual Church-going Christian, is generally regarded as a Christian since according to the religious dynamics of Ghana anyone who is not what we refer to loosely as a 'Northerner' and who hasn't converted to Islam is considered a Christian, and for her to choose to become a second wife of Ali, a Muslim with the liberty to marry more than two, is more than difficult to understand; but that is what Esi is, difficult to understand.

Marrying Ali, Esi suddenly began showing all that Oko, her ex-husband, wanted in her: cooking, loving, sex and being there. With this we know that Esi's  claims of oppression by Oko wasn't what led to the divorce, nor even the marital rape.
As you know, my job can be very demanding sometimes. I have to prepare materials for ministers, permanent secretaries ... you know, such people. And then I have to do a lot of travelling; inside the country, outside. Oko resented every minute he was free and I couldn't be with him' (Page 54)
'Supper is ready,' she announced. Food. Another source of pleasure when you were with Esi, Ali was thinking. She cooked like nobody else he knew or had known. (Page 91)
All through the story we get to know that Esi did almost everything that she never did for Oko for Ali. And when nemesis visited and Ali's 'free time' whittled out Esi was forced to accept that fate. And there was a
woman involved. Later we are to find that marriage and love alone do not a good relationship make.

Along Esi's story, is the story of her friend Opokuya and her husband Kubi, an interesting couple with their own problems. But what if Kubi loved Esi?

The story is a true-to life story but one that would happen infrequently. The prose spoke to me on several levels. For instance, I was able to relate to some of the jargons used in this book such as when 'armstrong' was used to refer to a thrift or a skinflint.

This is my first reading of Ama Ata Aidoo, and her story Anowa is on my reading list. Recommended? Yes, highly recommended.

This is my contribution to the Ghana Literature Week (November 15-21) hosted by Kinna of Kinna Reads.

12 comments:

  1. So glad to see that you enjoyed this book as well! My review posts later this week, though it isn't nearly as comprehensive as yours :) I too found the juxtaposition of Esi with Oko and then with Ali interesting. It showed that love isn't always enough... but that it is necessary. I don't think Esi could have ever been happy with Oko even after knowing that things weren't perfect with Ali either. I also felt very badly for Ali's first wife...

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  2. I liked this story and I'm more interested in the issue of marital rape here. Nana... AmaZulu? Have always wanted to read it.

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  3. @Amy... same here. Yes... Esi would never have been happy with Oko, no matter what Oko tried. And I pitied Fusena too.

    Looking forward to reading yours.

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  4. @Geosi, it was on the pretext of it that led to the dissolution of the marriage between Esi and Oko.

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  5. I've heard a lot about this novel but I don't think I've read it or maybe I have a long time ago. Have to look for it again. Nice review.

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  6. i've always hoped to read this book. funny enough i've not read a single book by Ama even though i bought one. i'm going for this one next.

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  7. @Myne... get it and read it again. Lovely book that is.

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  8. @Novisi, would have been just like you, except that the only time I purchased her book I read it and this is it. I hope to find more of hers soon. I have Anowa on my reading list.

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  9. I hope you're able to find Our Sister Killjoy. So far it's my favorite by her although Changes is a close second. This review makes me want to pick it up again.

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  10. @contrabandmarriage... I would definitely look for it. Thanks for your comment.

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  11. Nana.. I just read this book and reviewed it.. what a nice review you have here. Esi never loved Oko, love is (should be) the foundation of all relationship and we have to try to use our head. I think a lot of people married for the wrong reason.

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    Replies
    1. I agree... marry for the wrong reasons. And it is seen in most marriages. People are annoyed by the slightest thing when they shouldn't.

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