Stranded in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea on a dinghy, Nosa reflects on the events that brought him to his present predicament.
Abandoned by his father as a child, he is forced to bear the responsibility of caring for his mother and siblings. Seeing no future in Nigeria, Nosa is persuaded by an old schoolmate to migrate to Europe. In order to achieve this, he employs the services of smugglers.
His journey takes him through many transit cities, safe houses and detention camps in Nigeria, Niger and war-torn Libya, and sees him cross the Sahara Desert. On his journey, he meets other travellers, each with unique stories. They are all united, however, by the desire for a better life in Europe.
Much like the theory that water is the originating principle of all things from ancient Greek natural philosopher Thales of Miletus, author Bunye Ngene begins his debut novel, The Bodies That Move, with a description of water as supernatural, beautiful, and filled with nostalgia remembrance. But because of water’s completeness in all things, it quickly moves from a source of past freedom to one of present terror. Thus begins the journey of hardships that takes Nosa, the young protagonist, through his recollection of events that led him to being stranded on a small dinghy with others in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea.
Nosa begins chronologically with his high school graduation in Nigeria, also the Author’s home country, and the seemingly inevitable events that one needs to take in order to secure a better life. Because his father left his family for a rich woman, Nosa as the eldest child is responsible for the family but fails in finding a suitable job even though he graduated at the top of his class. Thereafter he is convinced to leave his home country for that better life. But along the way, Nosa and the reader examine the paradox of the various possible constraints on freedom.
The story quickly picks up pace once the journey away from Nigeria begins, which ends up trapping the reader in the many consequences much the same way Nosa is forced to follow a certain path given the limited number of options available. Therefore, Nosa becomes a sympathetic character that we hope makes it in the end. These are the two aspects that work the best for me as a reader. The editing between time periods never fails to lose my attention and further fleshes out the dire circumstances of the present.
The parts that did not work as well for me were the secondary characters that we meet along the way but are quickly forgettable. Apart from that, this book is a thoroughly enjoyable read about a journey that is repeatedly mentioned in the West but never in detail. We read the headlines of “ Migrants Stranded in Mediterranean” but never know how that stranding actually came to be. In this way Bunye Ngene provides the important and necessary missing link.
I would recommend this book to most of those interested in reading a debut, contemporary story from an author worthy of our attention.
I've been writing for my personal multimedia blog for years now, which started as and continues to be a passion project. I also use Goodreads and you can follow me there! Currently living in Munich, Germany.