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The Bodies That Move

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Loved it! 😍

An important journey that gives one a better understanding of how unfree freedom can be.

Synopsis

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.

Reviewed by

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.

Synopsis

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.

Prologue

Nosa sat in the boat staring at the shimmering water. The sun was reflected on it, giving it a beautiful, almost supernatural quality. It reminded him of the river in his village where he and his brother bathed as children. His sisters bathed in the river, too, but on the other side, shielded by high untamed elephant grasses and lush shrubs. It was this river that conjured in him a love for swimming. He would go on to become the best swimmer among his friends. There was something about being in water that gave him a sense of freedom. Perhaps the weightless completeness. His mother would say, ‘Sometimes I wonder if you were a fish in your former life. Or the husband of Olokun.’ Even though Nosa found the notion of being linked to the revered river goddess in any way ludicrous, he always liked to think that there was a certain level of understanding between him and the water. But right now, sitting in this boat, he couldn't think of anything more frightening.    

   Behind Nosa, a continuous murmuring suddenly increased into a loud cry. He didn't bother to turn around. He knew its source. She screamed at the top of her voice, yelling words he couldn't understand, beating her hands against the chest of the little lifeless body on her lap as if the pain inflicted on it would somehow bring it back to life. No one in the boat made any attempt to stop or console her. This was probably because no one really heard her. Everyone seemed to be in a daze, staring into the shimmering sea. He couldn’t remember exactly how long ago the baby had died. It must have been shortly after the boat engine broke down. Throughout the night she had tried to breastfeed him, squeezing on her breast as she muttered ‘No milk’ over and over again, her voice shaking. After crying for what seemed like hours, the baby’s sniffing gradually stopped. Everyone assumed he had cried himself to sleep, including his mother.

Reflecting, Nosa wondered how a journey that began filled with so much hope could have taken such a tragic turn. Maybe… no, there was no point in pondering on what could have been. But what other options are available to you when you're stuck in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea in a tiny dinghy, other than to reflect on your life and how the decisions you made brought you there? His thoughts took him back eight years, to when he was seventeen. When his life was easier.


About the author

The youngest of nine children Bunye Ngene, grew up in Lagos, Nigeria surrounded by laughter and books. When he's not writing or reading (literary fiction, thriller and fantasy) he's thinking of ways to be a happier person. He currently lives in Munich, Germany. view profile

Published on November 20, 2020

50000 words

Contains explicit content ⚠️

Genre: Literary Fiction

Reviewed by