Iweala’s second book, Speak No Evil, is deeply upsetting. I don’t know how else to describe it. This is a very, very dark read. I’ve seen mixed reviews on goodreads, but there were enough positive reviews that I decided to buy a copy. I’m glad I did, but WOW this book is sad. This was at the level of Ayobami Adebayo sad.
Iweala follows a Nigerian American teen, Niru, who is bound for Harvard in the fall. Niru’s best friend, Meredith, lives a relatively charmed existence as the child of two white, Washington insiders. When Niru reveals to his best friend that he is gay, she carelessly downloads Tinder and Grindr on his phone. In less than a week, Niru’s conservative, Nigerian father finds the phone and opens the apps. His father’s anger is immediate and unforgiving: he buys two flights to Nigeria to get Niru “fixed.” The book only gets increasingly sad.
I have a few criticisms here, mostly related to the novel’s format and character development. The story is split into two sections, one from Niru’s point of view and one from Meredith’s point of view. I’m not sure this set up completely worked here. The sections seem to be carelessly connected. I wonder if there’s a better way to tell this story. Lastly, the characters were not as developed as they could have been. I wish that I had more of a grasp on the personalities of Meredith and Niru. OJ, Niru’s older brother, is mentioned hundreds of times but we don’t meet him until one scene at the end of the book. I’m not really sure why he was included in the book at all.
This is definitely worth a read. That being said, I can’t drop this nagging feeling that Speak No Evil had the potential to be better than it is.