“Abubakar Adam Ibrahim is exactly what Northern Nigerian Literature should look like. This is a very moving book, a love story, with the unlikeliest of protagonists…a Muslim mother with grown up kids, and her robber. My novel of the year. Just beautiful.” – Binyavanga Wainaina.

Abubakar Adam Ibrahim in his debut novel tells an unconventional African story. Season of Crimson Blossoms is a pleasantly surprising story that one would not expect from an African book. The narration follows the lives of two individuals: Binta, a fifty-five years old widow and Hassan (aka Rezza), a man in his twenties, who are involved in an unusual illicit affair. A cougar and a rogue; those amateur Wattpad stories come to mind, right?

“….the impious rendezvous of the widow Hajiya Binta and the Lord of San Siro, the insufferable ‘dan iska’ with short, spiky hair with dark lips darkened by ganja fumes.”

Binta is a devout Muslim woman who is respected in the society. She lives with her niece, Fa’iza, and granddaughter, Ummi in a small town in the outskirts of Abuja, Nigeria. They live comfortably thanks to her son, Munkaila, a successful businessman who has made a name for himself in the political world. On the contrary, Rezza is the de facto leader of a well-known gang in the town that has taken over an abandoned building dubbed San Siro where they survive on petty crimes and other illegal activities. The continued existence of the gang is facilitated by the symbiotic relationship they have cultivated with certain ‘big men’.  

After he had emptied himself into her, grunting like a desperate animal, she lay beside him and played with the little anthills on his head. ‘You made me miss madrassa today.’

‘Sorry about that.’

She thanked him for the necklace and he laughed and ran a finger down her navel and back up. ‘I wanted to see you yesterday.’ He circled her nipple with his finger.

‘I know. I went to see my son. He lives with his family in Maitama.’

Oh. Is he the one I’m supposed to ask for your hand?’ he laughed.

Binta laughed too, a laughter that rolled and eventually petered into hollowness.

The bizarre circumstances of their encounter would normally not occasion such a relationship but the events in each of their lives made each of them, strange as it may seem, kryptonite to the other. Rezza was a shadow of the missing puzzle in Binta’s heart that she so desired to fill and similarly, Binta filled the hollow spot that had existed in Rezza’s soul throughout his life. This codependence created an affinity between them that sustained their clandestine entanglement.

The storytelling prowess of Abubakar is evident in the manner in which he brings to life mundane life undertakings through the lives of Binta and Reza and still addresses heavy subjects like mental health and sexuality in the most natural way. Abandonment, loss, and trauma are the most notable themes as most of the characters, including the protagonists, have had to contend with them at some point in their lives. All these stories were weaved in the backdrop of civil war in Jos, the former hometown of Binta, and other political upheavals that were happening at the time.

Season of Crimson Blossoms is a brilliantly told story that touches on many themes that flow together naturally. Abubakar, in this book, has effortlessly entertained and educated simultaneously and at the same time brought to light issues that tend to be hidden in the African setting. Anyone looking for an entertaining story that is beautifully written and packed with issues contended with on a daily basis should definitely pick up this book.

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