There is a recurring motif of someone switching on a light bulb in Jowhor Ile’s laudable first novel, “And After Many Days.” The book begins in Nigeria in 1995, when the country was shrouded in literal and metaphorical darkness — plagued by war, corruption, and frequent and annoying power cuts. But this idea of a light that has gone out also applies to the family at the center of the book, a family whose own light is to be snuffed out by tragedy.
“And After Many Days” follows the Utus, a middle-class and well-respected family living in Port Harcourt whose 17-year-old son, Paul, “the exemplary firstborn,” goes out to visit a friend and never returns home. The Utus are thrown into confusion, then despair. “To tell Paul’s story, you would have to start from before he was born,” Ile writes, and the novel wheels back into the family’s past, from the arrival of the British colonial government and Christian missionaries in Nigeria through the civil war. We encounter the family at the height of their happiness seen through the perspective of Ajie, the youngest child, who saw Paul last and blames himself for his brother’s disappearance: “Guilt rose like tidewater up to his chest and made breathing very difficult. If anyone could have spared Paul from going missing, it should have been him.” We stay with Ajie for decades, until he discovers what has happened to his bro ... Read Full Review