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Measuring a writer’s five stories

Title:         Beyond Measure Author:         Victor Oluwasegun Pages:         296 Reviewer:         Nathaniel Bivan I wasn’t eager about reviewing this…

Title:         Beyond Measure
Author:         Victor Oluwasegun
Pages:         296
Reviewer:         Nathaniel Bivan

I wasn’t eager about reviewing this book for its first impression. The cover design didn’t speak to me, neither did the quality of the hard copy. The back cover told me it was a compilation of five short stories, which include Beyond Measure, An Emergency Situation, Nightfall, The Wedding, and Messie’s Kingdom. So I flipped to the first story, which was the book title story and began to read.
I have heard some critiques and renowned writers bash to bits the use of a prologue by unknown writers, therefore my attention was quickly drawn to this first story with a prologue that made me quickly run through some pages to be sure I wasn’t being conned. It was indeed a short story collection.
Beyond Measure is the tale of Aminat, a village’s favourite girl, who, one fateful day, loses the use of her legs after a fall. She had gone to fetch water. This tragic incident was touching because, this girl, was actually planning on helping Ali, the father of Lateef, an irresponsible son who had abandoned him, when it happened. Besides, she had once saved the village from imminent attack by a renowned group of bandits when her sweet singing voice put them in a trance-like state.  So the village gathers to do her one major honour – find her a suitor. Of course no ‘right thinking’ young man wanted to sacrifice himself for this ‘honour’ when the king called for a village meeting. When Mahmoud, an orphan, whose family suffered a tragic end in the hands of a renowned gang in a distant land, came forward, almost everyone thought he was mad. But he wasn’t, and fate quickly brought his way a couple, willing to adopt him as son. This was the owners of the ‘little white house’, a church really, that was source for torment to the village’s wicked wizard, slash, doctor.
This witch doctor, Houdini, did all he could to bring down the owners of the little white house who were taking away his customers. He was furious because they healed the sick that would have enriched his pocket. So he tried to eliminate them without success and finally sought “that white book” he knew held all their powers. In the end, he gets this book, but not with his mischievous devises. And the village witnesses the healing of Aminat on her wedding day.
The story read like a folk tale, driving home a profound message of kindness and hope. However, as is the case throughout the work, grammatical and spelling errors abound. Also, telling, rather than showing remains a major flaw.
For example, in ‘The Wedding’, a six-page story about a wedding gone completely awry, part of page 202 read:
“It was a while before she realised her husband was saying something . (The latter full stop is left as it is in the book) She leaned towards him to catch what he was saying above the din of the music.
“The caterers…they’re not serving everyone….please tell your Aunty who is supervising to let it go round.”
She was shocked. This simply meant he had not been concentrating on the reception proceedings. If he was, he would not be seeing who is not eating what. It made her angry.
The paragraph below is the most confusing. It doesn’t show where the wife’s dialogue ends and the husband’s begin.
“Really? Is that your problem now? Food? “What do you mean? People that came from afar have not eaten since morning…your Aunty is serving only your family members! Is that right?”
What’s most compelling about this story is the fact that it touches on a subject very common in Nigeria today. The story ends with the writer telling readers that the couple remain separated, which further weakens the half-baked story.
Another example of how this book lacked editing is on page 114, in the story, ‘Nightfall’, about a couple whose marriage falls apart when the husband takes in a second wife. Actually, the marriage was already on the brink of a crash even before the second marriage.
They had just emerged from the bar and her husband was the first ‘into’ her view. (Note: ‘into’, instead of simply ‘he was the first she saw’)
In ‘Nightfall’ the husband realises too late, that the company he works for and become rich by, is actually owned by his wife. Not very realistic, to say the least, but there it is. But the tale tells a strong lesson, that a man can in the end marry a woman he thinks is better than his wife, learn otherwise when it’s too late, and lose it all.
I will advise this author to do a quick overhaul of this work before putting them in book stores. The effort is commendable and the stories hold important lessons, so much that it wouldn’t be fair if the eight-page story, ‘An Emergency Situation’ is left out. Here, two road safety marshals, Ben and Oikeke happened on an accident victim, whom they quickly rush to the hospital. The hospital staff — particularly the doctor and matron — appear nonchalant, only for the matron to later learn in an astonishing turn of events, that the dying man in the vehicle, whom she refused to attend to, is, in fact, her husband.
The author holds a lot of promise. An online research on ‘how to’ write gripping short fiction, with a certain punch from the very first sentence and more, will be invaluable.

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