Book Review: Unmasked by Henry Joe Sakala is a collection of short stories and poems. This book is written by an African (Zambian) award-winning writer, Henry Joe Sakala, in which he has penned five poems and two short stories. The primary story “Passing the Bones” is an excellent portrayal of universal emotions. In my estimation, two dogs by the names of Ninja and Bobo have metaphorically peeped into the world of human behaviour and its chaotic display.
Ninja, an old dog is resigned to his fate and is fully aware that he is with advancing age at the fag end of his status as a head dog whereas Bobo, the free-spirited young dog who wishes to break the confines of his slavehood, is still coming to terms with his lack of freedom. His perpetual desire to break free along with his unique brand of curiosity to know more about his master makes for an interesting read.
The part where both of these dogs escape and taste freedom is truly reflective of how every creature on this planet is meant to exist.
Is this story about how humans treat other humans through the metaphor of dogs or is it really about how the writer wants his readers to delve into the thoughts and emotions of their pets? Whichever way the writer wishes to engage, the story culminates beautifully into the reality in which we humans live on a daily basis; to give way to the new and how the old must gracefully retire from the responsibilities by passing on their experiences to the young ones.
This story aptly brings out the strength of the writer, he has a keen eye for picking up not so obvious emotions and adding layers to its depth. The other story, “Night Nurse” is a good read but it feels incomplete in terms of bringing out the emotions of a bereaved woman. It could have turned out exceptional had it not become predictable though the writer managed to keep the interest till the end.
Poems in this collection replicate, in my view, the writer’s observation of self and a cursory glance at life around him with the exception of two outstanding poems. “In My Skin” is stunningly reminiscent of how in this global age, skin may no longer create division; “For If I had no Skin…”
“They Say They Love Me” is an aspirational journey of the truth the poet sees and how he wishes for it to transform.
In a nutshell, through this book, the writer has put on display a variety of emotions. The use of local language sporadically adds a unique flavour. A quick read, an impressive journey of the writer. Barring a few roadblocks, this book exists with the possibility of travelling far.