Book: Monopoly of Grief
Author: Oluwatoyin Omitogun
Reviewer: Lanre Apata
It is often alluded to that grief can be eased by finding hope through the darkness that announced it. Grief and hope have become key to man’s happiness, choices, and how relationships are defined or redefined. This understanding is the bedrock of Oluwatoyin Omitogun’s latest offering entitled Monopoly of Grief.
Oluwatoyin Omitogun’s fifth book is a collection of intertwined short stories that capture the pain in love, the consequences of instability and chaos, the fragility of man and society, health, and stigmatization. What Omitogun has done successfully with Monopoly of Grief is the deftness in anchoring his short stories on his message of spiritual redemption.
In his first story which is the eponymous story of the collection, Sanjay, through the first-person voice, navigates the complexity of adulthood where love influences choice, where choice is reviewed through its consequences.
Omitogun carefully weaves the test of love in the face of barrenness into the travail of survival and a search for a better life on another continent. His struggles are explored through his marriage to Laraba whom he met during NYSC, and his turbulent journey in the United States of America. Omitogun’s eponymous first story attains its climax with loss in the death of Laraba and how Sanjay is made to manage grief by interfacing with hope. This sets the tone for other stories.
Free Indeed and Bodija Avenue also espouse Omitogun’s luminous writing of modern societies where crime and disorder are deeply rooted. Through the eyes of characters like Adigun Benson, Kingsley, Sayo, Duke, and Kris Madu, Omitogun delicately treats crime and the erosion of values with the aim of establishing hope through spiritual redemption.
His narration of a bank fraud in Free Indeed and how it opens up a new chapter for a condemned inmate is consistent with the core complexity of modern societies. This informs his treatment of homosexuality in Bodija Avenue.
If Lazarus and Eunuch are seen as Omitogun’s attempt at rewriting tales to reinforce his message of spiritual redemption, White Ribbon and Tangled are readers’ pleasant reminder of Omitogun’s understanding of the sensitive socio-political and economic issues that plague our society.
Circumspectly treated in White Ribbon, the stigmatization that sometimes derails society’s fight against HIV/AIDS and the place of counselling/therapy are brought to the fore. This is also done in Tangled through the desperation for a better life and self-actualization as narrated with Marcus.
Omitogun’s characters navigate grief and hope with a salient reminder of the availability of redemption in difficult times.
In 144 pages, he has nuanced the place of grief and the essence of hope. An easy read, Monopoly of Grief has touched on important subjects with seven short stories that deemphasize grief as an emotion that blurs hope. It has also elevated the potency of spiritual redemption; a redemption tender enough to soothe and heal.
Lanre Apata is a full-time reader of literature, a part-time writer, and an editor. He also works in Nigeria’s education sector