REVIEWER: TONI KAN
BOOK TITLE: WALKING WITH SHADOWS
AUTHOR: JUDE DIBIA
PUBLISHER: BLACKSANDS BOOKS, 2005
There are books you read that leave you mildly sedated, at peace and at rest like one who has just had a hearty meal. There are other books you read that leave you roiled, you know disturbed like a pool with spreading ripples. The latter kind of novels are the ones that leave you, long after you have closed the last page, with a million answers chasing elusive questions in your head.
Jude Dibia’s debut novel, Walking with Shadows is one of such novels, the kind that leaves you feverish with unspoken questions on account of the very difficult and almost taboo subject it tackles; homosexuality.
As you leaf through this racy, interesting and sad book, you find yourself debating in your mind the difficult question of nature versus nurture. Are people born homosexuals or is it something they pick up from the environment? Is homosexual love deviant love or is it merely a different kind of love? And what should we do when a homosexual sibling, friend or colleague is outed? Do we embrace them or push them away?
Jude Dibia tries to provide some answers to these questions, but these are answers, which do not fully satisfy because there are no easy answers as we read from this conversation between husband and wife.
‘“Are you gay?” she shouted.
“I have been a lot of things before I met you,” Adrian said.’
Ebele Njoko or Adrian Njoko knew even as a ten-year-old child that he was different from other boys because the games he liked to play and the songs he loved to sing were feminine songs. “He was gay… He had always known he was different from other brothers and other boys.” (pp.5-6)
The story of Adrian or his alter ego Ebele is a sad one. Despite his realization that he was different Adrian thought that a baptism would cleanse him but he is wrong. He is captive to his own nature and desires. But when he meets and falls in love with Ada, he believes that marriage and family would help him overcome his desires but a phone call from a colleague with a grudge upsets the ideal life he has created for himself and lays bare the rump of his secret in the sun.
Scared all his life of being found out, the discovery of his secret has an ironically liberating effect. Adrian or Ebele finally feels like a man who no longer has to look over his shoulders and at the end we read “ he was going away and in his new life he was determined to be happy and nothing was going to make him afraid anymore.” (p.215)
REVIEWER: TONI KAN