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Following the fate of one family over the course of two decades in Nigeria, this debut novel tells the story of each sibling’s search for agency, love, and meaning in a society rife with hypocrisy but also endless life “I like the idea of a god who knows what it’s like to be a twin. To have no memory of ever being alone.” Twin sisters Bibike and Ariyike are enjoying a relati Following the fate of one family over the course of two decades in Nigeria, this debut novel tells the story of each sibling’s search for agency, love, and meaning in a society rife with hypocrisy but also endless life “I like the idea of a god who knows what it’s like to be a twin. To have no memory of ever being alone.” Twin sisters Bibike and Ariyike are enjoying a relatively comfortable life in Lagos in 1996. Then their mother loses her job due to political strife, and the family, facing poverty, becomes drawn into the New Church, an institution led by a charismatic pastor who is not shy about worshipping earthly wealth. Soon Bibike and Ariyike’s father wagers the family home on a “sure bet” that evaporates like smoke. As their parents’ marriage collapses in the aftermath of this gamble, the twin sisters and their two younger siblings, Andrew and Peter, are thrust into the reluctant care of their traditional Yoruba grandmother. Inseparable while they had their parents to care for them, the twins’ paths diverge once the household shatters. Each girl is left to locate, guard, and hone her own fragile source of power. Written with astonishing intimacy and wry attention to the fickleness of fate, Tola Rotimi Abraham’s Black Sunday takes us into the chaotic heart of family life, tracing a line from the euphoria of kinship to the devastation of estrangement. In the process, it joyfully tells a tale of grace and connection in the midst of daily oppression and the constant incursions of an unremitting patriarchy. This is a novel about two young women slowly finding, over twenty years, in a place rife with hypocrisy but also endless life and love, their own distinct methods of resistance and paths to independence.


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Following the fate of one family over the course of two decades in Nigeria, this debut novel tells the story of each sibling’s search for agency, love, and meaning in a society rife with hypocrisy but also endless life “I like the idea of a god who knows what it’s like to be a twin. To have no memory of ever being alone.” Twin sisters Bibike and Ariyike are enjoying a relati Following the fate of one family over the course of two decades in Nigeria, this debut novel tells the story of each sibling’s search for agency, love, and meaning in a society rife with hypocrisy but also endless life “I like the idea of a god who knows what it’s like to be a twin. To have no memory of ever being alone.” Twin sisters Bibike and Ariyike are enjoying a relatively comfortable life in Lagos in 1996. Then their mother loses her job due to political strife, and the family, facing poverty, becomes drawn into the New Church, an institution led by a charismatic pastor who is not shy about worshipping earthly wealth. Soon Bibike and Ariyike’s father wagers the family home on a “sure bet” that evaporates like smoke. As their parents’ marriage collapses in the aftermath of this gamble, the twin sisters and their two younger siblings, Andrew and Peter, are thrust into the reluctant care of their traditional Yoruba grandmother. Inseparable while they had their parents to care for them, the twins’ paths diverge once the household shatters. Each girl is left to locate, guard, and hone her own fragile source of power. Written with astonishing intimacy and wry attention to the fickleness of fate, Tola Rotimi Abraham’s Black Sunday takes us into the chaotic heart of family life, tracing a line from the euphoria of kinship to the devastation of estrangement. In the process, it joyfully tells a tale of grace and connection in the midst of daily oppression and the constant incursions of an unremitting patriarchy. This is a novel about two young women slowly finding, over twenty years, in a place rife with hypocrisy but also endless life and love, their own distinct methods of resistance and paths to independence.

30 review for Black Sunday

  1. 5 out of 5

    karen

    I did not believe in love, in marital love, in righteous men or justice. this book is cold and sharp, but it’s a little janky in its construction. i’ve had a pretty good track record with nigerian fiction, so i was really looking forward to this debut, HOWEVER, while there are many positive aspects to applaud, like its compelling themes, strong writing about uncomfortable topics, and some admirably unflinching character work—rich and complex individuals with all of their flaws on display, the way I did not believe in love, in marital love, in righteous men or justice. this book is cold and sharp, but it’s a little janky in its construction. i’ve had a pretty good track record with nigerian fiction, so i was really looking forward to this debut, HOWEVER, while there are many positive aspects to applaud, like its compelling themes, strong writing about uncomfortable topics, and some admirably unflinching character work—rich and complex individuals with all of their flaws on display, the way the novel was structured kept pulling me out of the narrative and ultimately left me struggling to see it as a fully-realized novel rather than a series of occurrences that only occasionally communicated with each other. the story is told in the alternating first-person POV experiences of four siblings; twin sisters and their two younger brothers, taking place over the course of 19 years as their family experiences financial hardships and they are abandoned first by their mother, and shortly thereafter by their father, leaving them in the care of their grandmother. the book depicts their individual struggles on their paths to adulthood, however, the time spent with the characters is uneven—the novel is broken up into four big chunks in which each sibling is given their own smaller chunk, until the fourth and final chunk, which is sisters-only, no boys allowed!! i’m not sure why the brothers were left out of the final part, but even when they were present, the sisters’ stories are more prominent (and more interesting), and the brothers’ voices weren’t really well-differentiated; they kind of blurred into one male blob for me, much more so than the sisters who were, you know, actually twins. i also had difficulty with the time jumps, they were a bit disorienting, and i found myself struggling with trying to pinpoint the characters’ ages and also struggling with how these stories fit together into one cohesive story. it reads very episodic, there’s very little interaction between the siblings, and not much overlap between their stories. there are some similarities between the sisters’ stories, centered around the specific difficulties females experience, but there’s no clear through-line here, it almost reads like an outline of a novel, missing all the transitional bits and narrative connectivity. there’s a lot of meat here to chew on: poverty-based hardships, predatory men, transactional relationships, religion and hypocrisy, abuse of power, weakness and ruthlessness, but it felt discordant—a series of small meat-plates rather than a satisfying or focused meal. however, there are some gut-punch moments that are absolutely worth your time: I was a parentless teenage girl living with my grandmother in the slums of Lagos. Beauty was a gift, but what was I to do with it? It was fortunate to be beautiful and desired. It made people smile at me. I was used to strangers wishing me well. But what is a girl’s beauty, but a man’s promise of reward? What was my beauty but a proclamation of potential, an illusion of choice? All women are owned by someone, some are owned by many; a beautiful girl’s only advantage is that she may get to choose her owner. If beauty was a gift, it was not a gift to me, I could not eat my own beauty, I could not improve my life by beauty alone. I was born beautiful, I was a beautiful baby. It did not change my life. I was a beautiful girl. Still, my life was ordinary. But a beautiful woman was another type of thing. I had waited too long to choose my owner, dillydallying in my ignorance, and so someone chose me. What was I to do about that? so, not outta the park just yet, but definitely a writer to watch. come to my blog!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Neale

    The novel opens in 1996, Lagos, with twin sisters, Bibike and Ariyike, somehow lost on their way home from school. They are ibeji twins, and in the Yoruba culture, considered magical, belonging to one soul. Although the story is told from the perspectives of the twins and their two brothers, it is the twins who dominate the narrative, providing the heart and soul of the novel. For such a short novel the narrative spans almost two decades and time progresses with each chapter. In the first chapte The novel opens in 1996, Lagos, with twin sisters, Bibike and Ariyike, somehow lost on their way home from school. They are ibeji twins, and in the Yoruba culture, considered magical, belonging to one soul. Although the story is told from the perspectives of the twins and their two brothers, it is the twins who dominate the narrative, providing the heart and soul of the novel. For such a short novel the narrative spans almost two decades and time progresses with each chapter. In the first chapter the mother leaves with the father shortly following. The siblings are abandoned and left to fend for themselves under the care of their grandmother. With each change of chapter there is a change in perspective between the four children. And this structure continues until the end, with time jumping randomly with progression. Broken into four parts, the story of the sibling’s lives makes for interesting reading, but it is part four that explodes like a hidden grenade. A major theme of the narrative is the difference between halves. The difference between the twins’ lives, the difference between two cultures, the difference between rich and poor, the difference between male and female. It is also about the use of religion as a power, and its abuse. Church leaders and politicians. Wealth dispersed amongst the favourites and powerful. Wealth used to procure two private jets for the church, but when a young woman from the congregation needs money for an operation to save her son’s life, the flow of wealth trickles to a stop. The Christian church in Lagos, in this time frame, has a hierarchy of power dominated by men. This baby is one of many that have come from the Pastor of the church, Ariyike’s husband, using the church to procure young women for himself and his politician friends. It is about different cultures. When their mother returns from the States, she simply cannot believe that her youngest son does not want to travel back with her. She is baffled that somebody could prefer a “simpler”, less urbanized life. The Yoruba cultural stories that are interspersed throughout the narrative, are a joy to read, with most in the form of a parable or proverb. Abraham writes great characters. This along with the explosive fourth part, make this a wonderful debut and another Nigerian author to keep an eye on. 4 Stars!

  3. 4 out of 5

    BookOfCinz

    Black Sunday is Tola Rotimi Abraham's debut novel, set in Lagos, Nigeria. The book follows the fate of a Nigerian family as they go from enjoying a comfortable life to falling into poverty. Set in the 90s we meet a family of 6- mother, father, twin sisters Bibike and Ariyike and their two younger brothers-Andrew and Peter. Life for them is comfortable, they don't have much to worry about as their mother is the secretary of a political figure in Nigeria. With a change in government their mother Black Sunday is Tola Rotimi Abraham's debut novel, set in Lagos, Nigeria. The book follows the fate of a Nigerian family as they go from enjoying a comfortable life to falling into poverty. Set in the 90s we meet a family of 6- mother, father, twin sisters Bibike and Ariyike and their two younger brothers-Andrew and Peter. Life for them is comfortable, they don't have much to worry about as their mother is the secretary of a political figure in Nigeria. With a change in government their mother loses her job and is forced to do jobs below her standing. The father is a dreamer, of little help and is constantly thinking of get rich schemes. It is through one of these "business ventures" that the father uses the family home as collateral because a Charismatic Pastor says so. In losing the family home, everything crashes including the family structure, the comfort of having a home and pursuing an education. The mother leaves for a new life in the US, the father leaves the four children with his mother as he goes off to "provide for them". Life comes at these four children fast, they now face a new reality that were not prepared for. Black Sunday is told from the perspectives of the four children- twin sisters Bibike and Ariyike and their younger brothers Andrew and Peter. Over two decades we follow their lives through the different point of views. You get a somewhat unbiased look into each of their lives and how they are coping with their new reality. I really wanted to love this book. It had all the makings of a great novel for me: Set in Nigeria Written by a black woman Follows the fall of a family We have different POVs involved - it had all the right ingredients but it just did not come together as I would have liked. I felt like there was entirely too much going on and not enough time/pages spent to develop the plot and characters. I did not get a sharp voice from each POV- each character sort of blended into the other. There was too much time spent on minor plots and characters that in the end did not contribute to the overall plot of main character development. It was a quick read and I wish the aforementioned items were taken care of. I did enjoy the read and I do recommend you give it a read yourself.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jerrie (redwritinghood)

    3.5⭐️ The story of four siblings in Lagos who are abandoned by their parents and live with their grandmother had some excellent voices from the four characters. Unfortunately, there didn’t seem to be any kind of plot.

  5. 5 out of 5

    NILTON TEIXEIRA

    This book is a great debut! An excellent drama! The writing is simple but terrific, and there is no use of vernacular (I know it gives authenticity but I find it distracting). Lately I have read some books written by Nigerian authors and I’ve been really impressed. I loved the storyline and how it was structured. The different POV by each sibling (there are 4), who were abandoned by their parents, is skillfully written. Some parts are heartbreaking but this book is far from being overly dramatic. Th This book is a great debut! An excellent drama! The writing is simple but terrific, and there is no use of vernacular (I know it gives authenticity but I find it distracting). Lately I have read some books written by Nigerian authors and I’ve been really impressed. I loved the storyline and how it was structured. The different POV by each sibling (there are 4), who were abandoned by their parents, is skillfully written. Some parts are heartbreaking but this book is far from being overly dramatic. The flow is slow, but at the same time very engaging. I would definitely keep an eye on this author. Now, excuse me while I search for some recipes for an authentic moi moi (bean pudding) and jollof rice (it was mentioned in every Nigerian book, so it must be a staple dish - if we were not in a lockdown we would visit the nearest Nigerian restaurant).

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jaclyn (sixminutesforme)

    I really enjoyed this cleverly structured narrative following four siblings in Lagos, Nigeria. The movement between perspective and shifts in time reminded me a little of that structure in Homegoing, though we kept returning to each of the siblings as time advanced in this one. In terms of plot, I loved how "full circle" the narrative was and did not see at all how things would be wrapped up (always love being surprised by a narrative!). I think I enjoyed reading Ariyike's chapters the most, bas I really enjoyed this cleverly structured narrative following four siblings in Lagos, Nigeria. The movement between perspective and shifts in time reminded me a little of that structure in Homegoing, though we kept returning to each of the siblings as time advanced in this one. In terms of plot, I loved how "full circle" the narrative was and did not see at all how things would be wrapped up (always love being surprised by a narrative!). I think I enjoyed reading Ariyike's chapters the most, based on her plot progression and how much strength is written into her character. As a collective though, the twin sisters and two younger brothers provide an interesting narrative on connection and estrangement, class and poverty, politics and social machinations, and finding oneself within all of this. I was quickly invested within this story and cast of characters, the prose was superb, and I look forward to more by Tola Rotimi Abraham. Many thanks to Catapult for sending an advance copy of this my way.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lou

    Black Sunday is a powerhouse of postcolonial feminist literature and a devastatingly deft coming-of-age tale, set against the humid backdrop of Lagos, Nigeria, charting both the country and a family's evolution from 1996-2015. Tola Rotimi Abraham’s debut novel follows twin girls and their brothers through abject poverty, abandonment, and loss, as they lose everything but each other. Once their mother loses her job and their father makes a “bet” that leaves them penniless, all four siblings are s Black Sunday is a powerhouse of postcolonial feminist literature and a devastatingly deft coming-of-age tale, set against the humid backdrop of Lagos, Nigeria, charting both the country and a family's evolution from 1996-2015. Tola Rotimi Abraham’s debut novel follows twin girls and their brothers through abject poverty, abandonment, and loss, as they lose everything but each other. Once their mother loses her job and their father makes a “bet” that leaves them penniless, all four siblings are sent to live with their Yoruba grandmother and must learn to navigate life without their parents. This novel explores kinship, patriarchy, misogyny, abuse, exploitation and making ends meet, love and loss, and what it means to be all alone even with siblings by your side.  Throughout the story, it becomes apparent that sometimes what is left unsaid is even more important than what is being discussed. Religion also plays a substantial part in the novel with each character having a different perspective on Christianity and Abraham discusses it in relation to feminism and postcolonialism and in particular in regard to African women. The interplay between all of these political, societal and personal issues the author addresses makes this a superb and deeply thought-provoking book with a well-constructed plot and characters that come alive on the pages as well as being nuanced and relatable yet have experienced unimaginable trauma. Many thanks to Canongate for an ARC.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Robin Malik

    Black Sunday started out really strong and I got the feeling that I was settling into a really good book. Sadly, I quickly lost interest. There were some absolutely brilliant nuggets in this book but on balance, everything seemed disjointed. I thought the book had too much going on. Many different topics were covered in a cursory manner- without the detail and depth required to present these topics in a meaningful and impactful way. I felt like every time something happened to a character, it wa Black Sunday started out really strong and I got the feeling that I was settling into a really good book. Sadly, I quickly lost interest. There were some absolutely brilliant nuggets in this book but on balance, everything seemed disjointed. I thought the book had too much going on. Many different topics were covered in a cursory manner- without the detail and depth required to present these topics in a meaningful and impactful way. I felt like every time something happened to a character, it was just checking off another box in a list of unfortunate events one could cover in such a novel. There were many times throughout the novel when I said ‘wow going through something like this would significantly affect someone’, and I wished the author leaned into that more, exploring how the parental abandonment coupled with the particular life altering events that happen to the characters or those around them further compound their sense of helplessness and hopelessness and hurt. Instead, sensitive topics of sexual and physical abuse, death, etc. were brought up and cast aside for quick shock value. However, I do think Ariyike’s experiences were much better narrated and we got a better sense of her personality and why she made the choices she made. The story felt rushed and unfocused- the four different perspectives, although a laudable effort, proved too much to juggle and the siblings all sounded the same and to me all kinda blended together. I think this could have been stronger if focussed on one person’s perspective or only the twins. I also felt like most supporting characters lacked continuity and were just brought up for convenience. The relationships were just to further a sub-plot point. I didn’t care about any of the main characters, and found the characters mentioned briefly much more interesting and nuanced. I think those relationships brought an interesting dynamic to the siblings’ experiences and could have been explored further. I think the book had a lot of great potential to tell a unique story but I left underwhelmed. It was a quick read though, and I can genuinely see why others would rave about this. Unfortunately, it wasn’t for me.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kiki

    It is a common mistake, to hear a story about tragedy and disbelieve it because the telling is off. We think to ourselves, how does the storyteller know this? We are asking the wrong question. The right question, is why is the storyteller telling me this story? Because I was a child, I heard this story about a village full of mothers and the great loss they suffered and assumed it was a story about the pain of a child. Now, as a woman, I know the story is not about lost children. Children move f It is a common mistake, to hear a story about tragedy and disbelieve it because the telling is off. We think to ourselves, how does the storyteller know this? We are asking the wrong question. The right question, is why is the storyteller telling me this story? Because I was a child, I heard this story about a village full of mothers and the great loss they suffered and assumed it was a story about the pain of a child. Now, as a woman, I know the story is not about lost children. Children move from this plane to the next every day. It is about a story about unquantifiable loss. It is a story about a lost goddess. What they lost was a god who looked like them. What they lost was the belief in an omniscient, omnipotent female spirit. Now look at this: all of us are condemned to serving these male gods and their rapacious servants. There are many novels marketed as perfect for biblophiles, novels explicitly about libraries, readers, and the power of story. I have a read a couple and enjoyed them but I avoid such titles, for the most part. I much prefer when a book and reader are allowed to meet on their own terms and the former can unfold this theme itself without the hyped badge. If you are a fan of such stories this book is perfect for you. Black Sunday presents the large and small stories captured in transatlantic and local histories, in global religions and local spirituality, in hills and animals, in a praise poem, in a name. I was mostly engrossed with this story about four Yoruba siblings, and how they grew up in the presence of much and the absence of much more. I am sorry the brothers' perspectives were left out at the end but otherwise this is both a measured and daunting debut work. Well done, Abraham. Full review forthcoming at The Book Slut. TW: sexual violence, corporal punishment Bookstagram | Twitter | The Book Slut

  10. 4 out of 5

    Lauren Mendez

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Black Sunday by Tola Rotimi Abraham provided me a wide array of emotional experience including heartbreak, anger, frustration, shock, sorrow, and hope. Black Sunday is by no means an easy read, but it certainly is worthwhile. Black Sunday depicts how family is influenced by the complexities of wealth and identity within urban Nigeria. I found myself deeply invested in the children in this book, and hoping that all of their complications would be resolved, but alas, that is not how this story goes Black Sunday by Tola Rotimi Abraham provided me a wide array of emotional experience including heartbreak, anger, frustration, shock, sorrow, and hope. Black Sunday is by no means an easy read, but it certainly is worthwhile. Black Sunday depicts how family is influenced by the complexities of wealth and identity within urban Nigeria. I found myself deeply invested in the children in this book, and hoping that all of their complications would be resolved, but alas, that is not how this story goes. The depiction of twin sisters Bibike and Ariyike and their brothers Peter and Andrew, provide an opportunity for the reader to see different choices each sibling makes and how they attempt to process and survive abandonment. Both of the brothers are able to leave Nigeria and go to college within the United States to expand their opportunities. Bibike becomes a successful healer with a supportive partner and beloved daughter, while Ariyike chooses wealth and prestige, but lacks a loving marriage, and loses her relationship with her sister. All of the characters experience beauty and ugliness while finding their way in the world.This novel captivated me with such raw vulnerability and honestly about the painful realities of broken trust, gambling, and surviving. Black Sunday also highlights the realities of gendered violence toward female characters, and contains several explicit examples of sexual violence and assault. I would highly recommend this complex and thoughtful narrative. I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Katherine D. Morgan

    CW: sexual assault I finished this book two days and I still can’t figure out how I feel about it. It’s a very depressing book: I can’t even tell you if there’s a happy ending in it or not. I honestly don’t even know. There’s also a lot of sexual assault aspects to it. Like, a lot. And that made me extremely uncomfortable because I wasn’t expecting it. Honestly, this book rocked me. The writer did an excellent job. Just read with caution.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Aoife

    Starting in 1996, Lagos, Nigeria, we follow the lives of twin sisters Bibike and Ariyike as their lives are turned upside down due to the family's financial situation changing. The sisters and their two younger brothers are eventually abandoned on the doorstep of their grandmother, and more or less have to fend for themselves. There were parts of this book I really loved such as the general setting of Lagos, Nigeria, and a look into a culture that is so different and colourful to the one I grew u Starting in 1996, Lagos, Nigeria, we follow the lives of twin sisters Bibike and Ariyike as their lives are turned upside down due to the family's financial situation changing. The sisters and their two younger brothers are eventually abandoned on the doorstep of their grandmother, and more or less have to fend for themselves. There were parts of this book I really loved such as the general setting of Lagos, Nigeria, and a look into a culture that is so different and colourful to the one I grew up. I love books set in Nigeria and I feel with each one, I'm seeing different parts of a fascinating country that has so much to offer in literature. However, the story didn't flow as well for me as I wanted to do and I felt the slice of life-type sections we got with each sibling left more to be desired for me. I felt like between each chapters, I was left with more I wanted to know and I was missing parts of the siblings' lives and what shaped them and spurred on their decisions. Poverty, and what people will do to keep themselves safe and lift themselves out of desperation is a theme within the story - particularly Ariyike as she also finds herself involved with religion and sexuality. There were many things the characters did to survive that left me feeling a bit troubled, and worried about them and other people in their life. There are scenes of sexual nature in this book that involves a lot of questionable consent, as well as one scene of sexual assault that is witnessed by one of the main characters.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Lulu

    3.5= This is the story of four Nigerian siblings growing up as they go from riches to rags and abandonment by their parents. The story alternates between each sibling’s perspective as time progresses. This was a really good way to keep everyone involved in the story, but the chapters at time felt rushed, leaving unanswered questions. Overall it is a good story with beautiful prose.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kimberley

    We meet Bibike and Ariyike as twin girls who've only recently entered their teenage years. While their family wouldn't be considered rich, they are comfortable--which is to say they have adequate shelter, consistent food on the table, and no real worries about their day-to-day lives. However, when their mother is fired from an esteemed government job, and forced into taking a lower-paying one, their fortunes take a turn for the worse; eventually leading to their father taking a big gamble on wha We meet Bibike and Ariyike as twin girls who've only recently entered their teenage years. While their family wouldn't be considered rich, they are comfortable--which is to say they have adequate shelter, consistent food on the table, and no real worries about their day-to-day lives. However, when their mother is fired from an esteemed government job, and forced into taking a lower-paying one, their fortunes take a turn for the worse; eventually leading to their father taking a big gamble on what turns out to be a losing proposition and sure financial ruin. With the family now broke and homeless, their mother flees for the states and, eventually, their father leaves as well; content to turn the raising of his four children over to his mother. A woman who can only be described as being full of old-school traditions and ancient ideas on child-rearing and building a proper support system. As a result, both Ariyike and Bibike are forced to abandon any girlish notions they had in favor of entering a world where their biggest asset is the beauty each of them possess. The format, at least for me, almost felt like a series of anecdotes. Each of the four siblings, at varying moments in time, gives a brief update on how his/her life has transformed as a result of their family's splintering so suddenly. Although we are treated most wholly to the lives of the twin sisters, we learn enough about Peter and Andrew to understand their fates are different. Regardless of the circumstances their lives began under, they are still young men of promise, and the world treats them as such. This is never more clear than when Andrew falls for a young girl at University. His actions towards her, as she is brutally assaulted by a group of opportunistic older boys, is another way in Abraham subtly speaks of how different the fortunes of women are in Nigeria. Particularly if they don't choose to live by the rules concocted by the male patriarchy. This was a common theme throughout. Men and their needs juxtaposed against the ambition/ambivalence of whatever woman they chose to target. In every situation--from the mother to the grandmother to the women who simply populated the landscape--it was clear the ability to succeed was tied to the fortune, or grace, of some man. While Ariyike comes to view male-female relationships as, in a sense, an exchange of goods and services, Bibike longs for the safety and trappings of family life. The implosion of her family, in a bizarre way, came to underscore the value of 1) not being financially beholden to anyone, but 2) still having people you can count on for emotional support when times get rough. By the end, the motives and motivations--behind the actions of both women--is clear, but the journey each takes to find her own measure of peace is fraught with self-doubt, self-sabotage, painful truths, and plenty of reflection. *Thank you to Edelweiss+ and Catapult Books for this Advanced Digital Copy.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Neha Sharma

    3.5 stars I am a big fan of African fiction and I really enjoyed this book. It was unputdownable. I would have given it a four-star rating, but I couldn't ignore the fact that the narration, the time jump in between chapters, and some sentences were really disorienting. The story doesn't have a concrete and well-defined plot arc either. However, the characterization is powerful. I am still not sure about Bibike's character, but Ariyike was a brilliantly written character. The story is narrated by 3.5 stars I am a big fan of African fiction and I really enjoyed this book. It was unputdownable. I would have given it a four-star rating, but I couldn't ignore the fact that the narration, the time jump in between chapters, and some sentences were really disorienting. The story doesn't have a concrete and well-defined plot arc either. However, the characterization is powerful. I am still not sure about Bibike's character, but Ariyike was a brilliantly written character. The story is narrated by four siblings, two twin-sisters and two brothers. They talk about being abandoned by their parents and being forced to live a poor life in a Lagos slum. One of the chapters narrated by Peter reminded me of a story The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie because it was told in a third person's narrative. I was so disappointed with the fact that both the brothers' narration was not included in the last part. I loved Peter's narration and was eager to read a little bit more of his life. The readers definitely deserved a concluding chapter from the boys. Here are a few quotes that I absolutely loved: I was a parentless teenage girl living with my grandmother in the slums of Lagos. Beauty was a gift, but what was I to do with it? It was fortunate to be beautiful and desired. It made people smile at me. I was used to strangers wishing me well. But what is a girl’s beauty, but a man’s promise of reward? What was my beauty but a proclamation of potential, an illusion of choice? All women are owned by someone, some are owned by many; a beautiful girl’s only advantage is that she may get to choose her owner. If beauty was a gift, it was not a gift to me, I could not eat my own beauty, I could not improve my life by beauty alone. I was born beautiful, I was a beautiful baby. It did not change my life. I was a beautiful girl. Still, my life was ordinary. But a beautiful woman was another type of thing. I had waited too long to choose my owner, dillydallying in my ignorance, and so someone chose me. What was I to do about that? CW: Frequent sexual assaults and abuse

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ola

    3.5 stars Black Sunday’s originally episodic family saga makes Tola Rotini Abraham’s debut both stand out and detracts from a more powerfully hitting story. Set in Lagos, Nigeria, Black Sunday follows four siblings, two girls and two boys, from childhood to adulthood, as they grow up, overcome setbacks, and try to find their place in the world. This is another great choice from the Aspen Words Literature prize that I would have otherwise not come across, and I appreciate Black Sunday introducing 3.5 stars Black Sunday’s originally episodic family saga makes Tola Rotini Abraham’s debut both stand out and detracts from a more powerfully hitting story. Set in Lagos, Nigeria, Black Sunday follows four siblings, two girls and two boys, from childhood to adulthood, as they grow up, overcome setbacks, and try to find their place in the world. This is another great choice from the Aspen Words Literature prize that I would have otherwise not come across, and I appreciate Black Sunday introducing a new perspective on Nigeria. While family sagas have recently become more common in literature, Abraham sets her novel apart by providing snapshots into the lives of the characters, only to return years later. The characters are richly portrayed and powerful themes are featured in unflinching prose, such as unremitting patriarchy, the church’s hypocrisy, and poverty’s oppression. Because of the installments structure, however, it is difficult to form emotional connections with these characters experiencing heartbreaking ordeals. The tragedy in Black Sunday is unrelenting, and, eventually, I became numb to the characters’ pain, despite it being devastating when taken individually. Overall, while I was excited about Black Sunday’s short length, I wish it was longer, as the structure makes the book feel more like an outline.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Erin Ryan

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. A breezy beach read this is not. Bleak, bleak, bleak tragedy of the years-long unraveling of a family in Lagos. Abraham’s writing smarts like a sunburn, growing in intensity until its blistering conclusion. I can’t say this is a “satisfying” book; lots of loose ends go untied, and nobody ends up happy as far as the book says. Still, a confident first novel from a writer who surely has great things ahead for her.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kira

    Thank you to NetGalley and Canongate for an advance reader copy in exchange for an honest review. Black Sunday is an incredibly intimate work of literary fiction, it was such an enjoyable reading experience. The writing was so raw and moving, and the characters were so incredibly fleshed out and it all felt so real. I think that Tola Rotimi Abraham's writing style is incredible, and I can't wait to see more writing from them. The two covers for this book that I've seen are both equally gorgeous a Thank you to NetGalley and Canongate for an advance reader copy in exchange for an honest review. Black Sunday is an incredibly intimate work of literary fiction, it was such an enjoyable reading experience. The writing was so raw and moving, and the characters were so incredibly fleshed out and it all felt so real. I think that Tola Rotimi Abraham's writing style is incredible, and I can't wait to see more writing from them. The two covers for this book that I've seen are both equally gorgeous and I just feel incredibly lucky to have been able to read this book.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    Well, I found this book very thought-provoking and haunting. The richness of this novel is not the storyline, but the circumstances and its implication on the characters. But as set up... the story is based in Nigeria, mostly Lagos. A family of 6, mother, father, twin girls and two younger boys. Seemingly middle class when the story begins... the father loses their house and they are forced to go live with the parental grandmother. Shortly after the move, the mother and father abandon the childre Well, I found this book very thought-provoking and haunting. The richness of this novel is not the storyline, but the circumstances and its implication on the characters. But as set up... the story is based in Nigeria, mostly Lagos. A family of 6, mother, father, twin girls and two younger boys. Seemingly middle class when the story begins... the father loses their house and they are forced to go live with the parental grandmother. Shortly after the move, the mother and father abandon the children and the grandmother is left to raise them. So the story is about how each child handles and experiences poverty and internalizes abandonment. The novel itself is written in a very disjointed way... like we are sitting on the shoulder of each sibling in a way that allows us to bounce between each of them to understand thoughts and feelings as they mature and make decisions. What is compelling is how poverty, greed, religion, hope, and hopelessness intersect in their choices. And the real story is how the yearning of each sibling manifests in positive and negative ways as they mature into adulthood... choices good and bad create their trajectory. The girls stay in Lagos, while the boy immigrate to the US (because we learn that's where the mother went to find a better way for herself and hopefully her family). What is heartbreaking is that the girls because of sexism and the Male-dominated culture are the ones who seem to be most adversely affected by their circumstances. I found myself reflecting on how poverty, abandonment, religion -- and in the case of the girls -- sexism... created a feeling of "being less than" stayed with each of them in tangible and subtle ways. Poverty is so crushing and we who have some measure of priviledge cannot really understand how it influences circumstances, decisions and an individual's psyche. Definitely not a novel that everyone will enjoy... but a good one if you focus on the story underlying the story.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Reviews May Vary

    A growing up story told from the POV of 4 siblings after their mother leaves them, then their father leaves them, and then they are figuring out how to be adults.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    I'd give this book a solid 3. I liked it and I never wanted to stop reading, but by the time I reached the end I felt two things: 1. there were too many people and things left to the imagination. That is, too many storylines with loose ends for my liking. 2. I wished that the author had given me more where the twins are concerned - that is, allowed me to like them more, or care more about what happens to them next. Having said that, this book packs a powerful punch. It's not light reading. There' I'd give this book a solid 3. I liked it and I never wanted to stop reading, but by the time I reached the end I felt two things: 1. there were too many people and things left to the imagination. That is, too many storylines with loose ends for my liking. 2. I wished that the author had given me more where the twins are concerned - that is, allowed me to like them more, or care more about what happens to them next. Having said that, this book packs a powerful punch. It's not light reading. There's abandonment, abuse (of all kinds), religious fanaticism disguised as kindness, relentless misogyny. Love and kindness exists in this book, but it is in short supply. I'd definitely read another by this author.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Wadzi

    EXQUISITE. I inhaled this book. It was haunting and heartbreaking and I just couldn't peel my eyes away. I live for reading experiences like these - where the sheer quality of a work and its storyline both pull me in so forcefully. I will say though that this book is pretty bleak and contains a considerable amount of sexual assault, more than I was prepared to stomach and far more than I thought necessary. Otherwise, it is a triumph of a debut. EXQUISITE. I inhaled this book. It was haunting and heartbreaking and I just couldn't peel my eyes away. I live for reading experiences like these - where the sheer quality of a work and its storyline both pull me in so forcefully. I will say though that this book is pretty bleak and contains a considerable amount of sexual assault, more than I was prepared to stomach and far more than I thought necessary. Otherwise, it is a triumph of a debut.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Bernie

    Interesting story or should I say stories. The chapters are divided up and told by a set of African twin girls and their 2 younger brothers. The children talk about their lives, after being abandoned by their parents, as they themselves age. I found this book to be quite entertaining and will definitely be rereading it, at some point. I listened to the audiobook, while following along with the print version.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jan

    Four siblings lose their parents, fall from middle class comfort, and face life in turn-of-the-21st-century Lagos, including (for the twin sisters) misogyny in many forms. A strong debut with excellent writing and one very nice plot twist. I especially liked the way Abraham incorporated Yoruba folk tales.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Fazila

    SUBSCRIBE TO MY CHANNEL : YOUTUBE FOLLOW ME ON : TWITTER INSTAGRAM FR REVIEW : DISCLAIMER : Thank you, Netgalley and Canongate Books for providing me with an ARC of this book. I am leaving this review voluntarily. Black Sunday by Tola Rotimi Abraham is a West-African literary fiction set in Lagos. I requested this book primarily because of the cover. That cover drew me in, and once I read the synopsis I was intrigued by it. The story is told from the POVs of the 4 siblings who were left by their mot SUBSCRIBE TO MY CHANNEL : YOUTUBE FOLLOW ME ON : TWITTER INSTAGRAM FR REVIEW : DISCLAIMER : Thank you, Netgalley and Canongate Books for providing me with an ARC of this book. I am leaving this review voluntarily. Black Sunday by Tola Rotimi Abraham is a West-African literary fiction set in Lagos. I requested this book primarily because of the cover. That cover drew me in, and once I read the synopsis I was intrigued by it. The story is told from the POVs of the 4 siblings who were left by their mother and then, later on by their father as well. They were entrusted to the care of a reluctant grandmother with whom they spent their life. The story is an up-close examination of the 4 individuals' lives, and how they grow up with abandonment, loss, poverty, and other struggles. There are several important social issues and difficult topics that are discussed through the siblings' experiences. All the uncomfortable topics that were laid bare in this book brings forward powerful commentary regarding exploitation, rape, sexual assault, misogyny, patriarchy, power-struggles, predatory men in power, and religious hypocrisy. I am still at a loss for words when it comes to this book. I don't know how to explain what this book is about comprehensively and I am still struggling when it comes to my feelings regarding this book. I gave the book 2.5 stars leaning towards 3 stars. This story leans heavily on the social elements to paint the narrative and the influence of societal expectations is well depicted. The raw and direct portrayal of the decline of a family and their social standing in the community blended with a powerful and unflinching commentary on the social issues makes it a distinct story worth checking it out.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Resh (The Book Satchel)

    Black Sunday is Tola Rotimi Abraham's debut novel. Setting : The book follows a family of six - mother, father, twin sisters Bibike and Ariyike and two younger brothers-Andrew and Peter. Set in the 90s in Lagos, Nigeris, and told from the POV of the four children- Bibike, Ariyike, Andrew and Peter over two decades. It follows the decline of a family. The mother loses her job as a secretary of a political figure. The father isn't a very practical man and uses the house as a collateral for a scheme Black Sunday is Tola Rotimi Abraham's debut novel. Setting : The book follows a family of six - mother, father, twin sisters Bibike and Ariyike and two younger brothers-Andrew and Peter. Set in the 90s in Lagos, Nigeris, and told from the POV of the four children- Bibike, Ariyike, Andrew and Peter over two decades. It follows the decline of a family. The mother loses her job as a secretary of a political figure. The father isn't a very practical man and uses the house as a collateral for a scheme upon the advice of his pastor. The mother leaves for US, and the father leaves the children with his mother (their grandmother) and leaves. And these children fill us up with the story of the family. Black Sunday has the premise of the kind of novels I enjoy. There are multiple perspectives and it follows the fall of a family from a comfortable life into one in poverty. However the novel did not move me. It is a quick read, but the POVs did not feel distinct. There was too much going on, many minor plots, which meant the main plot suffered. So there was neither a character study nor a strong plot to hold the book together. You might enjoy it, so I would recommend the book when you are in the mood for a quick read about familial problems. Goodreads Much thanks to Canongate for an e- copy of the book. All opinions are my own. Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest

  27. 4 out of 5

    Paula

    Although this was a quick read, it was not an easy read for me. This is not a happy story, and was tough for me to read, and I’m not sure how to review this. I’ve read a lot of novels in recent years coming from African writers, and have enjoyed most of them. This is a different kind of novel, and it’s getting a lot of good press, and it is an interesting debut for this author. But honestly, I had a hard time connecting with it, and I’m not sure why. I found it rather incessantly depressing, whi Although this was a quick read, it was not an easy read for me. This is not a happy story, and was tough for me to read, and I’m not sure how to review this. I’ve read a lot of novels in recent years coming from African writers, and have enjoyed most of them. This is a different kind of novel, and it’s getting a lot of good press, and it is an interesting debut for this author. But honestly, I had a hard time connecting with it, and I’m not sure why. I found it rather incessantly depressing, which I expect from a novel about Africa, and it is understandable given both the patriarchy of the culture and the difficult lives of this family living in the ghettos of Lagos, Nigeria. There is a lot of sexual abuse, and a lot of joyless sex. The women are alternatively abused and yet also quickly learn to use sex as a way to get what they need to survive. No one in this family is happy, and despite the religious overtones interwoven throughout, I came away with a negative attitude toward the hypocrisy of Christianity in their culture, and little hope for the future of any of these characters. AND, this family had it a lot better than many, thanks to the grandmother who holds them together. We get a tiny bit of the Yoruba grandmother’s history right at the end, and it left me desperately wishing for more about her. There are lots of Yoruba phrases and poems throughout but few of them were translated. This story is told in separate narratives of two twin sisters and their two brothers, and frankly, I thought the brothers’ stories could have been greatly shortened. Instead, and in their place, I would like to have read a lot more about their Yoruba grandmother, who winds up raising these four kids when their parents abandon them. Her history and culture was far more interesting to me than those of the brothers. In such a short novel there were too many characters and side plots. I am not sorry I read this, but ultimately there was a bit too much going on with the four siblings, with loose ends untied (especially the brothers, whose stories we hear as children and then suddenly they are out of the picture). And again, it was the grandmother who interested me the most. (And as an aside, I stumbled over several typos in this novel, which I found very distracting, and so unusual in a published novel. That really bugged me.)

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ian

    Abraham is an INCREDIBLE writer. On a style and impact level, this book really affected me, and I found myself heavily annotating this one. Her commentary on family, community, religion, and gender are especially relevant with the recent stories of violence against women and anti-Queer legislation. While some of the events of this book are brutal, I found myself in love with the four siblings at the heart of this book. I think I would have preferred the piece to either focus solely on the twins o Abraham is an INCREDIBLE writer. On a style and impact level, this book really affected me, and I found myself heavily annotating this one. Her commentary on family, community, religion, and gender are especially relevant with the recent stories of violence against women and anti-Queer legislation. While some of the events of this book are brutal, I found myself in love with the four siblings at the heart of this book. I think I would have preferred the piece to either focus solely on the twins or to be a collection of short stories strung together into a novel, more in the vein of Under the Rainbow or Girl, Woman, Other. I was a little confused about the exclusion of the brothers in the final section of the novel and felt that it through off the book's rhythm since all three previous sections include all four of them. I felt that the novel didn't quite come full circle for me at the end, and I think their return to the narrative might have gone a long way in closing that loop. For Readers Of: Freshwater & Little Family

  29. 5 out of 5

    Antonia

    “I think families who spend a lot of time arguing about the small stuff do it because they do not have the courage to talk about the big things.” i don't really wanna talk about this at length because i obviously didn't like it and i feel really bad about it. i wish i wouldn't have had such a hard time reading this because the topics are extremely important and i like to be out of my western comfort zone with books. but while the general thoughts of Black Sunday were great, i really felt like th “I think families who spend a lot of time arguing about the small stuff do it because they do not have the courage to talk about the big things.” i don't really wanna talk about this at length because i obviously didn't like it and i feel really bad about it. i wish i wouldn't have had such a hard time reading this because the topics are extremely important and i like to be out of my western comfort zone with books. but while the general thoughts of Black Sunday were great, i really felt like the execution of those lacked. it's such a short book and while it still took me some time to read because of the complex writing, it just wasn't enough time to get into the characters. i also felt like the point of views of the brothers were quite unnecessary 'cause we never heard from them again. the amount of graphic rape scenes in such a short book were also unsettling and i didn't like that the misogny of almost every character was never challenged. i really hate that i didn't like this book but i promised myself to rate a little more harsh this year. if you're interested in Nigerian literature, you should absolutely not listen to my review tho.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Alison

    It's very on brand for me to say I wish we had only had the female POVs in this novel and that the male POVs had been left out, but...hey, I gotta be me. And the brothers were neither all that interesting nor all that distinct from each other, so I didn't feel that their chapters added much value to the overall story, which clearly belongs to the sisters. This is an incredibly emotionally harrowing story, one that makes you understand the characters' choices even if you simultaneously recoil from It's very on brand for me to say I wish we had only had the female POVs in this novel and that the male POVs had been left out, but...hey, I gotta be me. And the brothers were neither all that interesting nor all that distinct from each other, so I didn't feel that their chapters added much value to the overall story, which clearly belongs to the sisters. This is an incredibly emotionally harrowing story, one that makes you understand the characters' choices even if you simultaneously recoil from them, which shows some serious skill on the part of the author. I appreciated the nuanced look at familial connection and estrangement, at the damage poverty does to a family, both tangibly and metaphysically. There's a critical look at how power can corrupt even the most seemingly innocent people, especially when that power comes to them through the channel of religion. But again, I struggled to get through the brothers' chapters because I simply found them less engaging. I also wish the timeline had been more linear, because doing multi-POVs that also hop around in time can get a little confusing. And the ending was............jarring. Good, I think, but still. Yikes. Still, it's a promising debut novel, and I'll certainly be interested to see what else she writes.

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