We find love in strange places. The moral compass of the society tends to make us look behind our backs when rolling on the adventure of love. The spotlight in this novel is on Reza a young thug in his twenties falling strangely in love with a widow old enough to be his mother. The setting is in the puritanical Northern Nigeria, obviously this love will raise eye brows. Abubakar examines the society through the lenses of the characters and setting, he pokes how people live under the influence of approval or certain standards of the society. Hajiya Binta and Reza find themselves in this situation and they are grilled by religion, family and communal influences, and placing all these above their emotions, feeling and preferences holds the high points of the book.
The book is politically charged and it opens up a conversation that delves into seeing the human side of the characters, asides all the violence, religion, politics and societal norms. With subtle humor yet very strong themes this book beams with rays that penetrates how the society works.
This is in part what Abubakar A. Ibrahim sought to explore with his debut novel Season of Crimson Blossom. SCOB lays bare a vivid example of how we live to meet up society and norms. This novel is very contextual and it represents a new voice that is telling ignored stories in a recent and up to date voice that is Familiar.
In this book, the characters pop up and come alive with serious feelings of love, loss, grief loneliness and sex. Yes, sex.
Who puts sex in the same book that has Northern Nigeria and religion in it?Abubakar! He joins a new voice that is emerging in the Nigeria Literature that is telling, re-telling the Northern Nigeria story and breaking stereotypes.
The beauty of this book is in its ability to place contrasts side by side and in an objective manner. It lays bare the characters, leaves them to the mercy of the society while silently questioning the reasons why they cannot choose to live the way they want without the prying eyes of the society and family. Hajiya Bintu and Reza are both adults, who can have sex, and also be in a relationship, while we see this in post modern view as okay, Abubakar puts a question mark on it with the allegory of the mother and son. Reza sees his mother in Hajiya and Hajiya see her lost son in him, this make it look like incest, he presents a context that alienates the act.
Sexuality is explored in a an unusual manner. Sex is pop culture, which often neglects the aged in the society, as against general belief Hajiya’s sexuality is brought alive, ‘awakened’ of sought, by Reza. Sex often paints as a total masculine affair, that often obscure the female form as a participant rather than an object. Hajiya was an object to her formal husband, she can’t control the act nor play a apart in the act. It was as if her sexuality was dead till Reza made it ‘born again’. Let’s face it, old people too crave sex, just as much as tyoung people do.
The awakening that this theme deploys washes up the sociocultural and religion facbrics of the locale and that of the contextual backdrop of the story. This is the beautiful thing that the contemporary writings of the new generation Nigerian writers are contributing to the literary scene. And in my opinion it is very interesting, because they genrate real time coversations, which in tunrn creates awareness.
As for style, Abubakar pens like a god, he holds his character and puts life into them with vivid descriptions that carry the reader along, and make him want to forget he is reading fiction. He writes in such a way that the characters presents the society, and the society contain them. His language is good and strong, he has a special use if language that evokes imagery as tools of expression and communication, this gives the story a proper spine. I give him a plus on this one.
As for me I will give this book a nine. It is an excellent work. Well worked and written. Season of Crimson Blossoms was shortlisted in September 2016 for the NLNG Nigeria Prize for Literature and it was announced winner in October 2016. Find it people and read it.