I finished this book yesterday, and it was a very enjoyable read! The wit and satire woven into the storyline had me giggling out loud on the train a number of times. At 470 pages, it's safe to say I invested quite a lot in this story and its characters, so thankfully the ending delivered a very satisfactory closing. This is a first novel for Carole Enahoro, and I think she shows quite a bit of talent here.
Doing Dangerously Well is a sprawling tale, set sometime in the future and beginning with the fictional realization of the bursting of the Kainji Dam in Nigeria. The tragedy means that accessing fresh water will be even more challenging for people, and puts President Kolo of Nigeria at war with a famous Nigerian rights activist named Femi Jegede. Meanwhile, the effects of the burst dam reverberates all the way to the Glass family in the U.S., where sisters Mary and Barbara find themselves on opposite sides of the fight for water rights.
Mary and Barbara are the characters that centre the whole story, and they are really very funny and extreme caricatures of two opposing personalities: Mary, a corporate executive for a water-bottling company, is a cold, aggressive and career-driven businesswoman interested in capitalizing on the need for fresh and clean water in Nigeria, while Barbara is basically a left-wing hippie who ends up working for a Canadian water-activism group in order to prevent Mary from succeeding. As Mary tries to do business with President Kolo, Barbara teams up with Femi Jegede, and the crisscrossing of their efforts is usually darkly humorous, and also poignant.
What stood out most for me with this book is that Enahoro's characters are wonderfully crafted and developed, and she wrote some of the punchiest character dialogue I have read in quite some time. Barbara was easily my favourite character… I wish I could find a cover image that showed the back cover as well, because there is a picture of Barbara on the back of the book, her mouth open in protest and holding a sign that says "90% of my body is WATER, will you sell it too?" In the story, though, there is also the subtle, continuous presence of water in different forms and for different reasons, which I think is a really effective way of mirroring our own need for water, and which also demonstrates what the right to fresh water means to different kinds of people and cultures.
Enahoro, Carole. Doing Dangerously Well. Toronto: Random House, 2010.
$32 Canadian or US??? The book dey one kain expensive oh! I don't believe in spending more than $24.99 for any novel and dat wan sef na pushing it! Na only me go buy? I will wait till it goes down or they do special sale!