I tried reading Jagua Nana when I was 12 or so. I went through a couple of pages and I lost interest in the story. It felt like being in church with the adults when kids in the children’s church were having fun, eating biscuits and closing early to go home and have more fun. Never did understand why some kids just wanted to be with the adults. I twasn’t old enough to grasp the themes in the book. My age group at the time was definitely not it’s target audience.
It was difficult at first for me decide what the women in this story were. Were they strong or weak, or just being exploited. A few of the love scenes felt more like rape than lovemaking. Women though are the main characters and the centre of the story, and that’s a good thing. At first, it was difficult for me to like the main characters, Jagua Nana and her daughter Liza. I kept asking myself why. Did I feel like the author was trying to push an agenda or was it just me trying to come to terms with the characters living their lives how they pleased? When I realized that it was just my bias, me trying to decide how I think a woman should live her life, it was easier to enjoy the story. Maybe it’s the society I grew up in or just my Christian upbringing. The truth is, not everyone gets to live a “perfect” life or even wants one. That’s if a perfect life even exists.
The Story: Spoiler alert!!!
The story starts off with Jagua Nana’s daughter, Elizabeth or Liza in Lagos. She is a practicing lawyer with two kids, a boy and a girl named Obi and Ngozi. The kids have different dads. She is also the mistress of a wealthy business man named Saka Jojo, who already has three wives and wants her to be his fourth wife. She doesn’t want to be his wife and is happy with the status quo.
She has just returned from the UK where she has been since she was 8 years old. She has never met her mother Jagua Nana and this was one of her reasons for returning to Nigeria. She attends an event with Saka Jojo and spots her stepmother Auntie Kate. Auntie Kate did not tell Liza that she wasn’t her mother when Liza was being raised by her. Liza found out that Kate was not her biological mother when she was older. Auntie Kate flees the event before Liza can get to her.
Auntie Kate used to live in Jos and was dating a Greek tin miner named Nick, who she later married. Nick wanted a child but Auntie Kate had been unable to bare any. So she came up with a scheme for Nick to have sex with a then teenage Jagua Nana. Jagua Nana conceived and managed to keep the pregnancy and birth a secret from her family. After fleeing one of the numerous communal conflicts in Jos, she came back for her child but was told by Auntie Kate that her child had died during the conflict. Auntie Kate even took Jagua Nana to the cemetery to show her the grave where her daughter was buried.
Auntie Kate then took the child to Nick, and told him that she had given birth to a child and that he was the father. When the child was 8 years old, Nick sent her to the UK to live with some family friends of his.
At a remembrance ceremony for Jagua Nana’s father, Sister Heide who used to be a flatmate of Auntie Kate in Jos tells Jagua Nana that her child isn’t dead. Jagua Nana then sets out to find her child. At the same time her daughter is also looking for her, and Auntie Kate.
The remaining part of the story takes us through how Jagua Nana and her daughter find each other, and also love (or just partners, or both) and live happily ever after.
As usual, I don’t want to end up giving the whole story away (if I haven’t done that already) so if you have any questions just hit me up in the comments and I’ll try to answer.