A Trip in Shadows And Pain This Day (Lagos) BOOK REVIEW February 24, 2004 Posted to the web February 24, 2004 By Nkechi Akaenyi Fiction Promise's latest book, In The Middle Of The Night, reveals the activities of men and women we encounter everyday in the street. It probes into us, baring our nakedness so that while we castigate others, we are equally abashed for we are not all as good as we claim to be. In the Middle of The Night is the story of the painful journey of a people humiliated by their own treachery and depravation. It deals with different levels of devastation, loneliness, infirmity, chaos, anger, embezzlement and parsimony. From the family of the protagonist, Elena Peters and her husband, Nuru Peters, the reader is led into the affairs of both the family and the larger society. Through the deadly desires, subtle exploitations and nuances of the family, we are gradually exposed to the lofty ambitions, intrigues and cruelties in the charged political climate in which this excellent writer holds us spellbound. The deceptions of man and his wife take the reader to the wider mores of the State and its peculiar ills. No one is spared the author's searchlight which soon reveals the dangers we create by ourselves through hypocritical behaviours and self-centeredness. There seems to be some kind of illness that has eaten into the human race which the author portrays as the intrinsic problem of man. This 'illness' is evident in the unnecessary lies we tell, our impersonations and wickedness. The people gathered in the middle of the night are distinct and real. Some of the nauseating and terrible things they are engaged in are not far from what we do on a daily basis. Promise is one of the contemporary artists who is blunt, telling it as it is irrespective of the attacks of those who are not friendly with honesty. With her usual daring and sincere approach to issues which she blends with appreciable imagination and verve, her talent is forever brought to the fore as she tells her story effortlessly as though she was born to do so. In this book, she offers her readers nothing short of the profound work of a great novelist. The narrative technique she adopts to tell a painful story is so gentle that it caresses the reader at the same time, it gets so turbulent that it threatens to consume the reader who having been completely taken refuses to let go until the last page is turned. Whether she is writing about love, power, politics or pain, Promise is at home with what she knows how to do, telling a terrific story, which arrests the reader, filling him with admiration. It is amazing too how she successfully writes about any subject she has chosen as though it was the only one. All through this great book one notices how well researched the book is even though it is a work of fiction. It is remarkable that she obviously takes the trouble to research her subject and desist from insulting the intelligence of her readers. The questioning sessions are remarkably well constructed so that one wonders if the author is a lawyer. The central theme of the book which is deceit is so well developed that nearly all the characters except a few like Governor Oni Silver, Fran and her husband, Marx are so vile that the message of the book becomes very glaring. The President, the Governor of Bana, Dr. Coker, Kelvin, Josey and a host of others, including Elena, the protagonist are so full of deception that one is pained to know that one might be like them in many ways. What is even more startling is the fact that Nuru, the socalled good one was just as bad as the others. It was not until the book gets to its denouement that the reader is startled with this revelation about Nuru so that the reader is tempted to join Elena who looked at Nuru and his kids and wondered if she knew anybody at all. And like Elena, the reader too cannot 'cast the first stone,' for no one is totally good.