A Broken People’s Playlist: Stories (from Songs)

Harper Via. Mar. 2023. 224p. ISBN 9780063268180. $24.99. F
Set in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, these stories are linked by the songs that form the playlist of their creation and by recurring characters. Garricks (author of the debut novel Tomorrow Died Yesterday) focuses on middle- and upper-middle-class Nigerians, businessmen and professionals enriched by the oil boom with the means to have been educated in Great Britain or to have sent their children there. “Lost Stars” (inspired by Adam Levine) concerns two on-again, off-again lovers whose decision to finally commit is unexpectedly shattered. The wrenching “Hurt” (inspired by Johnny Cash) is about a thirtyish man dying of cancer who holds a living funeral for himself and intensely desires that his ex-wife attend, despite having physically abused her during their marriage. The wry “I Put a Spell on You” (inspired by Nina Simone) takes place at a gathering of friends where one confesses that he feels his wife has hexed him because he is now unable to perform sexually with his lovers, while another decides finally to marry his pregnant longtime partner.
VERDICT Garricks’s Nigeria is a land broken by rapid change, and his characters have been broken psychologically and spiritually by it as well, living lives filled with longing and disappointment and seeking an ever-elusive redemption.
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