Modernity & Tradition Struggle in Light-Hearted New Novel of Nigeria

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Battling traditional belief, superstitions, sea deities and prenatal destiny, two characters choose love and the Christian God, respectively, in Ihebom C. Reginald’s satirical work that reveals the complex dimensions of Nigerian life in “Forbidden Choice”

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The gods have spoken! They have decreed their choices: Elvis will be the spouse designated to mamywater, goddess of the sea; while Peter will become the predestined high priest of Nguma, his village’s deity. In growing up and becoming educated, though, both of them have refused to accept the prenatal decree that has imposed social and religious statuses upon them–statuses that do not permit them to make a choice nor give them alternatives. Ihebom C. Reginald’s Forbidden Choice reveals how both characters challenge their destinies, thereby daring the anger of vengeful gods in Igboland, where the people still hold strongly to their belief in traditional religion. Prenatal destiny rules in Igboland and Reginald show how this belief influences and conditions the characters in the physical, and how custom and traditional belief affects individual decisions. References are also made of actual political decay in present day Nigeria.

When Elvis returned from the UK, he enrolled at the Nigerian Law School in Lagos where he met Chizz. He fell head over heels in love with her, not minding that she was already married. Strangely enough, Chizz also discovered that she was in love with him and was willing to face village scandal by unjustly repudiating her first husband. Then the water spirit that claimed Elvis as husband went on a war path to regain what was due to her. Obasi, the chief priest of Nguma, was moribund, and his nephew, Peter, was to take his place as the chief priest of Nguma. In defiance of this assignment, Peter chose to be ordained a Catholic priest. Obasi and indeed the elders of his village feared the calamity which this refusal would bring upon Umuibe, their village. Nguma’s will had chosen now Rev. Fr. Peter to succeed as chief priest, but the latter has made good on his decision to serve in the Christian church.

Modernity finally wins over the beliefs and superstitions of traditional society in Forbidden Choice as it portrays the triumphant power of love between Elvis and Chizz despite the forces of darkness. It also strengthens the conviction, as demonstrated by Fr. Peter, that people have a capacity to choose. In order words, man and woman are basically the architects of their fortunes. Reginald’s fiction hums with complex understanding, with dismay and even hope over his people’s refusal to give up the power of the past and their struggle to make that past conform to the details of the present.

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About the Author
Ihebom Chijioke Reginald was born in Owerri, ImoState in eastern Nigeria. After his Primary and Secondary education, he proceeded to Italy where he obtained a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Law, with a bias in International Law. In 1984 he returned to Nigeria and was posted to the University of Ibadan as Graduate assistant for the National Youth Service Scheme. He presently lives in Italy with his family and works with the Fiat Group.

Forbidden Choice * by Ihebom C. Reginald
Publication Date: May 7, 2013
Trade Paperback; £9.99; 91 pages; 978-1-4797-8060-0
Trade Hardback; £19.99; 91 pages; 978-1-4797-8061-7
Ebook; £3.99; 978-1-4797-8062-4

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