One for Sorrow, Two for Joy

Author:

Maire-Claire Amuah

Title:

One for Sorrow, Two for Joy

Publisher:

One World

Nataka Books Reviews: 

One for Sorrow, Two for Joy

This wonderful book moves between different genres and conforms to neither, using its own voice to bring us the story of the resililent, ambitious and talented Stella. Being written in first person, the book reads at first like a memoir before we are back in a fictional world of Stella, her brother Sol, her NHS nurse mother Florence and their father. The fact that I cannot remember his name right now is apt - this is exactly his role in the book, forgetable.


Follow Stella as she moves from school to university and becomes a successful barrister against the odds, her own family odds which she overcomes.

-- Review by Nataka Books

Nataka Books Full Review: 

One for Sorrow, Two for Joy

This wonderful book moves between different genres and conforms to neither, using its own voice to bring us the story of the resililent, ambitious and talented Stella. Being written in first person, the book reads at first like a memoir before we are back in a fictional world of Stella, her brother Sol, her NHS nurse mother Florence and their father. The fact that I cannot remember his name right now is apt - this is exactly his role in the book, forgettable.


The family find themselves in South London, in a small unsuitable house that they could afford. The father is from a priviledged background which helps him marry Florence but he immediately does not live up to the standards and becomes abusive, has no goals and soon becomes an irrelevant cog. Florence is a hard working mother who tries to protects her children but cannot protect herself from domestic violence. 


We follow Stella in first person at home, at school where she excels and she eventually moves to university. The experiences we read about are not new but Marie-Claire is adept at keeping the reader engaged through the events. Even some painful moments are dealt with using some humour. Overall, whilst telling the story of Stella's success, the difficult parts are not brushed off including the violence of her father in the home.


The treatment of siblings, or more specifically the boy-child is in focus. We enjoyed being drawn into to family events, religious practices where there is money for tithe but not enough for the children; the trip to Ghana to see the grandparents which always leaves an indelible mark on many a child, the need for connection to the wider family and dealing with distance. Stella handles it all by thinking of herself as an advocate, she helps herself by helping others. 'Touch wood' is her motto to steady herself in difficult moments.


The family eventually moves to a bigger house but their struggles continue: "...we dont have furniture in every room yet....we might as well be in Africa." One of the most revealing moments comes when Florence retires from the NHS and Stella witnesses her mother at work as a senior nurse giving instructions and guindance to other staff members including men. The role of multiple identities in the home and the workplace are one of the themes tackled in this book.


Stella's world view especially after her university experiences and the beginning of pupillage is summarised neatly. "I am bird without the use of its wings; useless and condemned to the experience of fleeing predators from any and every direction. My survival is dependent on anticipating and weathering such attacks because I cannot escape them. I am not equipped to soar, and yet, I have neither the instict or the ability to surrender to that which promises my condemnation."


The second part of the book explores relationships as Stella tried to settle down. We are treated to some of the best humour we have read this year.


We found that the second part of the book was slightly slowed down, and we could add made lighter by social media posts and discussions. These were brief enough to contribute to the characters and the story, and it is a tool used more to reflect the times we live in. We found that the first part of the book worked better with minimal actual media posts.


When Stella's mother discovers group whatsapp, she decides to advance religion to which Stella observes, "I cannot imagine Mathew, Mark, Luke and John, contemplated when writing their gospels that they would reach unintended audiences in this way." There are many hilarious scenes throughout this book including the incident in Thailand we will not reveal.


Stella is one of those characters one roots for. We are confident she will make it as she confronts various post-30s anxieties whilst having a successful career.


"Anxiety is an inability to live in the present," Stella observes, seeks advice and continues to thrive ! 


This is easily one of the best books we have read in 2022  and it comes in a hearty volume that does not feel one page longer than there should be. In fact, there should be more. The author has infinite stories, finds the words, keeps readers engaged, laughing and empathetic throughout as the story continues ! Thoroughly enjoyable book.


#My100AfricanBooks #AfricanWritingSeries


-- Review by Nataka Books