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Second Engagement

Friday 1 May 2009, author(s)-editor(s) Susan Nkwentie Nde

Second Engagement is an enthralling tale of triangular love and the quest for fulfillment. Framed around Gabby and Lizzy, the narrative unravels the secrets surrounding relationships of love. Susan Nde explores the pleasures and tensions of how two individuals in love handle the obstacles on their path to being together. In an exceptionally lucid and graceful style, she weaves an enduring tapestry of great human interest, from divergent dreams, which converge at the point of acceptance and tolerance.

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ISBN 9789956558667 | 208 pages | 216 x 140 mm | 2009 | Langaa RPCIG, Cameroon | Paperback

1 Review

  • Book Review: Second Engagement by Susan Nkwentie Nde 25 May 2009 10:56, author(s)-editor(s) Fatou A. Minah

    Susan Nkwentie Nde. Second Engagement (Paperback). Bamenda,Langaa Publishers, 2009. 208 pages.

    This second novel by a high school language teacher in Buea in Cameroon (in the heart of Africa) is a journey through the mind and times of a young woman between girlhood and womanhood, village life and city life, tradition and modernity. The main character, Lizzy, a married civil servant and businesswoman, looks back on how she bridged these spaces and lived the linkages. What emerges is life shaped by happenstance as much as by reaching out to embrace dreams and give them feet.

    Lizzy and her friend Jane grow up together. They learn how to enjoy nights out in the town without getting wrapped up with playboys. Then they observe each other, with a bit more distance, as they each learn to humour the men they have chosen as life partners. Parents want to see their children married, but when the time comes and a child informs her parents about her marriage in the pipeline, the parents cringe. They know that while the joys may be many, the road is littered with pains that the child ignores at the outset of a seemingly blissful union. But, as Lizzie herself explains on one occasion, “Life … is a risk. … Anything else is a lesser risk.”

    In Second Engagement, families negotiate alliances in parlours, for, marriage is more than just two individuals drawn together by elusive forces we call love. At a wedding ceremony people dress in Ibo and Yourba outfits with skyscraper headgears and European suits and hats. A sight to behold, and one that shows how Africans enjoy dressing and drinking from multiple traditions, marrying and blending them in the most creative and fashionable ways. Special corn brew, lovingly prepared by Lizzie’s mother and carried into the courtyard in calabashes with the strictest respect of tradition, flavours the celebrations. Sipping it is a way of savouring the past, the present and the future at the same time.

    Pa Matin, Lizzy’s fiance’s uncle, like other characters, wins a special place in the reader’s heart. Knowing the whimsical nature of his nephew cum son, he becomes an important ally for Lizzy, as does his first and second wives. Though she lives in the city, Lizzy understands the hierarchies underlying polygamous relationships and negotiates them to ensure harmony and avoid upsetting the boat.

    Manji, a neighbour and mother of nine, in her pidgin English, helps Jane through difficult times with Benny, while Lizzy registers the lessons in compromise. She notes Manyi’s will and instinct for self preservation and realizes from Manji’s recounting of her parents’ sight-unseen marriage and her detached attitude regarding her own husband that there are many ways of living and loving.

    Lizzy’s mother becomes an accomplice in Lizzy’s desires to affirm herself through productive activity that also becomes a space for young girls to learn a trade and bring out the creativity within them. The author suggests that the young girls engage in learning to sew African designs and complex embroideries discover themselves and their culture in ways that serve them throughout their lives.

    Lizzy’s husband, Gabby, though not an active accomplice, is nonetheless instrumental in helping Lizzy achieve her dreams to the extent that she knows how to let him express his resistance in ways that keep him from becoming a roadblock.

    This novel depicts the balancing acts women play to achieve multiple objectives. Lizzy’s constant mind and soul searching reveals the tensions and joys involved. Let Nkwentie Nde take you on a ride through space and time with this latest work of hers.