Seventeen-year-old Abike Johnson is the favourite child of her wealthy father. She lives in a sprawling mansion in Lagos, protected by armed guards and ferried everywhere in a huge black jeep.
A world away from Abike’s mansion, in the city’s slums, lives an eighteen-year-old hawker struggling to make sense of the world. His family lost everything after his father’s death and now he sells ice cream at the side of the road to support his mother and sister.
When Abike buys ice cream from the hawker one afternoon, they strike up a tentative and unlikely romance. But as they grow closer, revelations from the past threaten their relationship and both Abike and the hawker must decide where their loyalties lie.
Review – ★★★★★ (5 stars)
Published: 2012 | Publisher: Faber and Faber Limited | Pages: 288
Did you know that Chibundu Onuzo wrote The Spider King’s Daughter when she was 21 years old? I find that incredible! Her attention to detail of all the intricacies that could happen in a story involving two people are thoroughly explored, and I am very impressed! When I was reading this book, it felt like I was watching a Nigerian movie. The storyline is full of suspense, speculations and assumptions that could actually push this novel into the ‘thriller’ genre. The Spider King’s Daughter is a novel centered around two characters: Abike and Runner G.
Abike is a 17 year old spoiled brat, child of the Spider King- a mysterious, very wealthy man in Lagos. One day as she is chauffeured home from school, she spots a handsome hawker, Runner G, selling ice cream on the street. For days she tries to catch Runner G’s attention through her characteristic manipulative ways and finally starts a conversation with him on the street as she sits in her car. After some weeks, Abike and Runner G become friends and they spend their weekends together. Abike even invites this hawker, Runner G to her huge palace (againsts her father’s will) where they simply enjoy each others’ company and slowly fall in love. Their relationship seems to turn sour when Runner G starts to act strange around Abike, as others warn him of Abike’s true character.
Runner G is a street hawker who sells ice cream. He was not always a street hawker. He came from a middle-class home in the past. But after the death of his father- who was a lawyer, Runner G’s family fell into poverty. His mother is currently bed-ridden and depressed and he had to stop school and start hawking in order to pay his younger sister’s school fees. Runner G becomes Abike’s friend after she initiates conversation with him from her car in the street. He slowly falls in love with her, but later realizes she isn’t actually the person she portrays herself to be. Runner G hence starts to dig for information about Abike from her family members and her close friends who have nothing good to say about her. He later finds out that her lavish lifestyle, grâce à her father’s wealth, might actually be the reason why his family is in abject poverty.
The once cute-turned-dark love story between Abike and Runner G results in a truly unpredictable, shocking end, that pushes me to pity both Abike and Runner G.
The book was written from both Abike and Runner G’s perspectives- which was a bit confusing for me in the beginning. But it was great to see how two people could interpret an event or a day together in two completely different ways. Readers get to understand both Abike and Runner G’s thoughts and feelings towards the dynamic of their relationship and how possibly incompatible they actually are. I appreciated Onuzo’s commentary on hawker-life through Runner G’s character. It pushed me to actually put myself in their shoes and question the terrible economic disparities of our African nations.
Onuzo’s attention to detail was very impressive. Everything about this book, down to the smallest detail was great…it’s actually difficult to discuss this book without giving away spoilers. But I really really recommend this!
Purchase The Spider King’s Daughter on Amazon.
Darkowaa (@) is an American born Ghanaian, currently living where her heart feels most at home- Accra, Ghana. She doesn’t consider herself a writer or a bookworm… She prefers to call herself an African Book Addict! Books written by people of African descent / from the African diaspora excite her the most, and hopefully they’ll excite you too!
Review originally posted on AfricanBookAddict.com
Related country: Nigeria