No God Like the Mother is a delightful collection of nine short stories. The theme running through them all like a red thread is the fragility and uncertainty of the human condition and of women’s circumstances in particular. Each and every story is unique in that it portrays a woman’s slice of life, ranging from the Red Sea to Lagos, Nigeria, the United States, Paris, and beyond.
The first story, which also gives the title to the collection, depicts a woman’s death during childbirth told through the eyes of her daughter. The second story, “Sleep,” shows the painful sense of guilt of a mother whose child has gone missing. “The Silence Between Us” tells about the protagonist’s childhood and move from Nigeria to the United States and her coming back home several years later. A girl’s loss of trust in men after following a stranger to his Parisian flat is depicted in “Thief.” “The Bride Price” deals with female infibulation, while “Nobody’s Child” follows the vicissitudes of a single mother and her eventually teenage daughter. In “In Her Shoes,” the protagonist moves to the USA to pursue a bachelor’s degree; while looking forward to seeing her mother back in Nigeria, she learns that her mother is dead. In the last story, “Snow by Morning”, an eleven-year-old girl is left behind in a dangerous area of Lagos in exchange for a “golden ticket to America.”
The characters—boys and girls, young women, men, and mature women—are portrayed with a surety of touch and voice that makes them memorable. Women’s lives and motivations are described with precision and intensity, and the women depicted are particularly well rounded; one can see them in the mind’s eye.
The language blends dialogue and description, English and Yoruba, in catching and relevant ways.
These short stories will appeal to women worldwide who want deep, poetic, yet realistic insights into what it is like to be a female human being in transition, living across cultures and amid great hopes and troubles. Each story unlocked a different emotion in me. I even cried while reading some of them. I cried out of anger, compassion, joy, hope, sadness… and was moved by the complexity of the circumstances and feelings packed in so few pages. I reveled in the opportunity to be guided into the intricacies of such diverse cultures and life conditions through the masterful skill of the author.