I remember picking up a copy of International Sisi Eko and Other Stories a few years ago from the bookshop in Terra Kulture. I just fell in love with the cover and decided to get a copy despite my usual misgivings about short stories while having no clue about the stories in it. It finally made it into the 2022 TBR list and it has been a decent treat. International Sisi Eko and Other Stories is a collection of sixteen short stories by different authors about Lagos life – its people, their experiences and the very many ways the city leaves a mark on its inhabitants. Like in every short stories collection, there are hits and misses. Some of the stories are random and portray nothing unique about Lagos Life. In some other stories, the vibrancy of Lagos is in full display and the effect of that vibrancy is not always positive.
The most vibrant stories in this collection are stories set in Lagos traffic and involving the daily dramas that the commuters are active actors in. The lack of a viable public transportation system in Lagos means that what passes for a transport system consists mostly of derelict buses popularly called Danfos, which are ideal settings for ear-tingling human dramas that unfold as millions of commuters are transported across the city. Stories like Smarties, International Sisi Eko, My Chip-Tooted Angel, Groundnuts and Two-Face. All of these stories explore the life of the average Lagos commuter, from various angles. In them, the different faces of Lagos are revealed – one where neighbours watch out for each other to one where everyone looks out for only his or her own interests. A Lagos where a mugging is a breath away to one where a sympathetic intervention is all that prevents an almost certain public lynching. A city where two strangers go from fistfights to laughing heartily over random jokes all in a single bus ride. International Sisi Eko and Other Stories paint a vivid picture of a Lagos that is entertaining in its full glory and painfully grime in its dysfunctionality, all in one full sweep.
One thing I have learnt to look out for in short stories collections is how the stories are ordered. A collection I read recently had the very best story at the start and it just went downhill from there. In some, the quality of the stories is evenly distributed and the hits are stuck in between misses. What strikes me about this collection is that the best story was saved for the last. Road To Yesterday by Temitayo Arowolo is an incredibly good story. It has seemingly unrelated scenes and stands that come together at the end and leave the reader with a sharp pain at the end. It is concise, precise, punchy, and direct and its effect is long-lasting after the last page is turned. An excellent end to a decent collection of short stories.
I’ve read it too. While some stories are really interesting, others are just there. I skipped most of them.