- Measuring Time by Helon Habila
- Paperback 383 pages
- Published by W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. (2007)
- My rating: 4 out of 5 chapatis
Measuring Time is the story of twin brothers born in the village of Keti shortly after Nigeria’s independence. Raised in a rural backwater by an unloving father (their mother died in childbirth), Mamo and Lamamo are determined to strike out on their own in search of fame and fortune. The unexpected and glorified return of their uncle Haruna, a veteran of the Biafran War, inspires the boys to become soldiers. They steal away together in the dead of night to find a recruiter, but Mamo weakened by sickle cell anemia is forced to turn back.
The narrative turns here to Mamo, and we follow him as he develops an academic life and becomes a historical biographer. His ambition now is to tell the story of Keti and its people by documenting the lives of ordinary citizens. Occasionally, letters arrive from Lamamo, providing updates on the grueling life of a soldier on the front lines of the West African conflicts of the 80s and 90s. As Lamamo lives history, his brother writes it.
Habila’s plot rolls along steadily, spiking at several points, and pulling the reader into Mamo’s life and the lives of a cast of entertaining characters. This is historical fiction at its best. My one suggestion is that the book could have been slimmed down a bit, as there were some sections that seemed needlessly verbose.