Author: Azizah Idris M.
Reviewed by: Uduak-estelle Akpan
Publisher: Parresia Publishers Ltd (2018)
Azizah Idris M. grew up in Gombe and describes herself as “having a healthy appetite and focus on Arewa lifestyle and romance fiction.” So, it makes sense that she would attempt to blend her two core interests in the plot of A Sackful of Wishes, her first book in the Hadiza trilogy.
In the 207 pages affecting novel, Hadiza goes on a torturous pilgrimage of her marriage, transition into adulthood, and dull hope wrapped in a sackful of wishes. When she catches Abdurrazaq Zanna watching her at Hadda school, she has her suspicions. What she doesn’t know is that her woes are about to begin and her imaginations are very far from what would later become her reality when she makes the self-sacrificing decision to wed the “grumpy” and “egotistical” AR who just happens to “know his caps.”
Told in a first-person narrative, Hadiza’s story spans across years, bearing an unshakeable weight of direness and imparting clear understandings of the realities of family life and love, emotional and financial abuse, domestic violence, spousal rape, and abuse of varying degrees against the backdrop of Islam. It is told through the eyes of a sixteen-year-old whose strength of character bears a resemblance to that of Adunni in Abi Dare’s The Girl with The Louding Voice- but without her luck.
The book’s title suggests an easy-breezy tale, but its opening sentence, “Here I am feigning sleep while in a mess,” carries the promise of a harrowing plot, and it delivers to the last line. With steady prose and vocabulary rather high-flown for the main character’s plainness, the novel presents a much-needed education on Hausa/Fulani wedding traditions, unmanaged mental illnesses, and trauma parenting; it brings home the lessons for parents, intending parents, and society – What conditions do we raise our children? How does the home situation impact our children’s outlook on life and choices? Importantly, it also questions: how many Hadizas are out there and how many more are in waiting?
Hadiza’s plight is one many women can relate with, to varying degrees – living as though they were afterthoughts, yet expected to be loyal enough to forgo happiness, dreams, and sometimes, their very breath, to save a family. In its February 27, 2021, publication, The Guardian, Nigeria, reported that “at least once a week, there is a case of a man beating, maiming, or killing his wife, and in some very rare cases, a woman dealing with her husband in like manner.” If nothing, the report shows what important work Azizah Idris M. has done with her book, especially by telling the commonly ignored story of an underage, Northern bride.
The book offers no room for ease, save for Malam Musa’s refreshing attempt at supporting his daughters. Other than that, its only hope of entertainment rests on the reader’s abilities to unearth the subtle humour that abides in Hadiza’s quips, as well as the interesting occupants of Malam Musa’s rowdy household. Unfortunately, it sustains little to no suspense but makes up for that by introducing several promising characters – like Ya Muzakkir, whose story begs for a bit of nuance.
A Sackful of Wishes is as compelling as it is relevant—an unsuspectingly powerful read that stays emotive through to its rushed yet adequate end. The reader clings to hope till the last letter and prays that Hadiza should make it through the hell’s walkway that is her marriage, but not without fearing what the coming two installments in the trilogy will mean for her.