Dayo Forster - Reading the Ceiling

Reading The Ceiling - Dayo Forster

This is a good book if you are doing one of those Around the World challenges and you are struggling to find a book from the Gambia (did you know it was THE Gambia?).

It's a perfect book for this sort of thing - a perfect mix of the exotic and the familiar, not too challenging, giving you just enough of insight into the culture without making you uncomfortable. It meshes the European with the African, the traditional with the modern and shows African women dancing on the fine line between the two. 

The main character is Ayodele who on her 18th birthday decides that she would have someone pop her cherry. The emphasis is put on the fact it is her first very own choice and she will make the most of it. Organised as she is, she draws up a list of four potential candidates and gives herself till the evening to decide who to do 'the Deed' with. 

Then the narrative splits in three and follows the consequences of each choice in different alternate universes. The weird thing about Adoyele is that she was so insistent on making this independent choice, yet that seems to be the only choice she ever makes. After that in all three stories she just lets life happen to her. The only other choice she seems to make is just the opposite of what her mother wants and she appears to be making it only to spite her mother.

Ayodele is a very frustrating first person narrator as she offers no insight into her thoughts and feelings. Her motives remains obscure to us and when grief strikes her we are taken aback because we had no idea she cared.

Only in the last story things seem to start taking shape, and I had a feeling it had less to do with Ayodele and more with Dayo Forster finally taking a better grip on her own writing.

I was struggling to nail the final conclusion this book was trying to make, but perhaps it is that if you had no daddy around when growing up, you're going to end up with an older dude.