Like a Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun by Sarah Ladipo Manyika

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Reviewed by Chelsea McGill

Dr. Morayo Da Silva is a retired English professor living in San Francisco. As she goes about her daily life, she comes into contact with other ordinary people, each one extraordinary in their own way. In this gorgeous little book, tiny everyday actions and interactions – buying flowers, visiting a friend, reading a book – come to life and reveal their true importance.

The Everyday

Small things that are apparently ordinary tend to get lost amongst the ‘bigger issues’ in life. But they are no less important –in fact, they are what life is made of. Morayo embraces the beauty of the everyday and engages with life and with other people at a profound level. For example, when Morayo sees a young homeless woman on the road, she stops to check if she is ok. This leads to a conversation that goes deeper than normal, superficial small talk, cutting through to what is really important.

Morayo used to be married to a Nigerian diplomat, so she has travelled extensively and lived in many countries across the world. This multicultural background helps her to appreciate the vibrancy of the world around her in San Francisco, to delight in the little pleasures that remind her of places she has been or people she used to know. This gives her narrative a great depth and ingenuity that is a pleasure to read. She is one of those characters who would be a great friend, if she were real.

The ordinary extraordinariness of people

The story is told in first person from the viewpoint of multiple narrators. I liked this because we not only get to see what other people think of Morayo, but we are also given glimpses into the lives of the people that she meets. Like everyone, each of these other narrators is extraordinary in their own way, and this narrative technique allows us to discover how. For example, the owner of the flower shop is a Palestinian refugee who is traumatized by the war and bloodshed he has experienced. This leads him to be suspicious of everyone, including Morayo, who in his opinion doesn’t buy expensive enough flowers and may be out to rob him. He is also extremely frustrated with his sister, who does not see the brilliance of his idea to open an all-natural, organic, gluten-free, etc. etc. Palestinian restaurant. Moving back and forth between the characters, even those who are supposedly peripheral to the main story, encourages the reader to see the world differently: everyone has a history and a story to tell, secret loves and desires that are just waiting to burst forth.

This little novel is a bright ray of sunshine that will restore your faith in humanity, especially the ordinary people around you. I look forward to reading more from this incredibly talented Nigerian author.

Cassava Republic is a major publisher in the African continent, and has just started a new operation in the UK. This is one of their first titles.

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Chelsea blogs at The Globally Curious.

Sarah Ladipo Manyika, Like a Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun (Cassava Republic, 2016). 978-1911115045, paperback.

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