Waiting for an Angel is a novel written by Helon habila, set in the years and time of military dictatorship in Nigeria. It tells of the story of Lomba, a young journalist who is thrown into prison to languish, after being charged for inciting a riot.
As Lomba is in prison, he gains access to papers and a pen, for his sanity and to express himself.
Today I began a diary, to say all the things I want to say, to myself, because here in prison there is no one to listen.
His poems and write-ups are discovered by the prison’s superintendent and a friendship sparks.
The story also takes the reader back in time to when Lomba was still free and tells the tale of other characters related to Lomba one way or the other. Some give their own interconnected narrations on what led to that ‘bloody’ day.
We are told of Joshua. Joshua is employed to teach Kela a fifteen-year-old boy in preparations for his exams but later becomes a resistance leader to fight oppression. Nancy, a waitress in a kiosk at Poverty street, copes with life by covering the walls of her room with graffiti and motivational quotes while she takes care of her little son and awaits a time when she can finally reunite with ‘her man’, her son’s father. We are also told of Alice who happens to be Lomba’s love and Bola, his roommate.
The underlining topic in this novel I would say was the evils of military rule in Africa. The times where there was no form of democracy and when free speech was a crime. It also told on the monotonous life of fear and poverty.
Poverty Street in this book is used as a symbol to represent the majority and their standard of living. Poverty Street is not the initial name as I am told in the story, but it was given by the residents as a reflection of their lives. It spoke on the need for a revolution, as this is pushed for by passionate Mao.
This country is in dire need of a revolution – Mao
Something I got to understand from this book, is the human mind incapacity to take what is beyond them. This was Bola’s story, which is one of my favourite characters. His jovial and lively nature made me enjoy his appearance in the novel, so when he started blowing punches in the air, shouting and chanting in the students’ rally before the boycott, I found myself getting excited and throwing a fist in the air too.
The narration was mostly in the first person and few times in the third person omniscient.
This is not the first book I’ve read from the author Helon Habila, the first was Oil on Water, which was really good. Then was Measuring time, a story of two boys, twins. I got to know ‘Waiting for an Angel’, was his debut. Quite impressed.
I would rate the novel a 6 out of 10!