Harmattan Rain follows three generations of women as they cope with family, love, and life. A few years before Ghana’s independence, Lizzie-Achiaa’s lover disappears. Intent on finding him, she runs away from home. Akua Afriyie, Lizzie-Achiaa’s first daughter, strikes out on her own as a single parent in a country rocked by successive coups. Her daughter, Sugri grows up overprotected. She leaves home for university in New York, where she learns that sometimes one can have too much freedom. In the end, the secrets parents keep from their children eventually catch up with them.
Once I finally gave this book a chance, I really enjoyed it! I started Harmattan Rain in October of 2013, but put it down after reading thirty pages or so. I found the beginning a bit slow so I just took a break and came back to it in February.
Harmattan Rain focuses on three generations of Ghanaian women in a family: Lizzie-Achiaa, Akua Afriyie, and Sugri. Readers experience Ghana (mostly the capital, Accra) through these characters from 1954 (before independence) to the early 2000s. We learn about Ghana’s political unrest during the coup d’état era and witness the evolution of Ghanaian politics. Ayesha Harruna Attah does a great job of weaving Ghana’s history into the storyline in a simple, clear way, without being politically biased.
The novel is divided into three parts, so readers have the opportunity to delve deep into the lives of each character and their storyline. Ayesha Harruna Attah effortlessly develops each character and their storyline to the point where all three storylines are meshed together perfectly. As the novel takes us from one generation to the next, readers witness family cycles, past mistakes, and habits continuing. It was refreshing to go through the realistic ups and downs of these ladies’ lives: Lizzie-Achiaa, the brave matriarch of the family, runs away from her village to find her lost lover and also tries to pursue her nursing career in Accra; Akua Afriyie, Lizzie’s rebellious first child, struggles with being a single parent and strives to find happiness through her art; Sugri, Akua Afriyie’s only daughter, a brilliant but sheltered girl, learns hard lessons of life as she goes away to college in the US.
My favorite part of the novel is part three, which focuses on Sugri. I could identify with Sugri more, as she attended an international high school, went to university abroad, and experienced being “different” outside of Ghana. I love how Sugri manages to break some destructive ancestral cycles that were haunting her family for many years, especially since she might be seen to be the “weakest” amongst mother Akua Afriyie and her grandmother Lizzie-Achiaa. She may be a little naive, but her growth and strength by the end of the novel was inspiring! Harmattan Rain is a great debut for Ayesha Harruna Attah and I can’t wait to read her next novel, Saturday’s Shadows, which will be published this fall.
Publisher: PER ANKH
Reviewed by Darkowaa Adu-Kofi