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The Impatient

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This was a painful read in the most beautiful way. Though it was heartbreaking, I would definitely say that it is worth reading!

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Set in Maroua, northern Cameroon, Djaili Amadou Amal’s The Impatient is a must-read for anyone interested in international fiction or women's rights. In three multi-chapter sections, each section with a different narrator, the author grabs the reader’s attention with individual accounts of Cameroonian women forcibly married to men chosen by their families.

Two of the three narrators are half-sisters, teenage brides to marry on the same day. Ramla, who dreams of becoming a pharmacist, is happily engaged to Aminou, a handsome university student and her brother Amadou’s best friend, when Uncle Hayatou decides she must marry Alhadji Issa, instead—a local politician and the most important man in town. In her family members' minds, Alhadji Issa is the perfect match who will ensure her father’s and uncle’s business success. Ramla's engagement to Aminou can easily be broken so that 17-year-old Ramla can take her place as second wife of a wealthy 50-year old. Half-sister Hindou is pledged to a bachelor cousin much nearer her age, but also a man she fears.

Told through Ramla’s point of view, the first section ends with the day of the double wedding and the brides’ rides to their new homes. In section two, Hindou narrates her experience as wife of the unemployed, alcoholic, drug-using cousin Moubarack. Ramla reappears in the third section although not as the narrator. Thirty-five year old Safira, first wife of Ramla’s new husband, Alhadji Issa, now speaks her mind. Secure in her position as only wife for two decades, Safira is prepared to do anything to drive beautiful young Ramla out of her husband’s bed and the home. As Safira tries one scheme after another, her narrative passes through several stages. By turns, it is desperate, amusing, remorseful, and confident. While all three sections pack an emotional wallop, Hindou’s story is darkest.

The perennial advice given to Cameronian brides and wives echoes throughout the three narratives. Wives must be PATIENT. Only with munyal (patience) will they achieve a happy, harmonious, secure life with their husbands, their husband’s relatives, and their co-wives. So they are told from childhood. Do these brides and wives accept the advice? Readers need look no further than Djaili Amadou Amal’s book title, The Impatient.

Thanks to NetGalley and HarperVia for an advance reader copy of this important book, which is now being read in Cameroonian schools. Literature’s power may change lives.

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A beautifully written novella in three parts that describes the "patience" required of a wife in Cameroon. Be it for the choice of husband, a polygamous marriage, or relationship with a sister wife, it is all about patience. The men in this work are all repugnant, and those who are not are powerless. The women seem to lack empathy but perhaps that is due to the resignation to their fated lives. It is a painful read that you won't forget. I see this as a perfect read for a book group, particularly a mother-daughter book group. It would not be out of place in a classroom, either. It's a quick read that you won't be able to put down.

Thank you to NetGalley for this remarkable read.

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I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

"The Impatient" is a novella-length piece of translated fiction that follows the tribulations of three Cameroonian women living within an oppressive cultural system based, at least partly, in fundamentalist Islamic practices. The novella is divided into three sections (Ramla, Hindou, and Safira), which each focus on one woman's specific view point. I don't want to get much further into the plot because I think the emotional impact is more significant if you know as little as possible going in.

This is really hard to review because my feelings about the story and my feelings about the novella are pretty separate.

I think the story is powerful and impactful and really opens a window into a contemporary lifestyle utterly foreign to my own. I knew a bit about women's oppression in some modern African nations, but I am the furthest thing from an expert and all the knowledge I did have was a combination of random facts. Getting to actually immerse myself in an account of these women's struggles, even a fictionalized one, added a much-needed human element to my (still very limited) understanding.

However, the writing itself isn't particularly strong. I'm not sure if this comes down to things being lost in translation or what, but the writing felt quite juvenile and the dialogue was incredibly stilted. In part, I think the stilted dialogue was meant to reflect the awkwardness of the character's situations ("awkwardness" here being a major undersell), but that doesn't account for every instance.

Sadly, the writing itself isn't particularly strong. I'm not sure if this comes down to things being lost in translation or what, but the writing felt quite juvenile and the dialogue was incredibly stilted. In part, I think the stilted dialogue was meant to reflect the awkwardness of the character's situations ("awkwardness" here being a major undersell), but that doesn't account for every instance.

All in all a worthwhile read, but may not appeal to readers who need skillful prose in their books.

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Truly heart breaking to endure reading this book, however a must read for people who have no idea what people of other countries could go through.
Amadou Amal tells the story of three women who suffer abuse in Cameroon, where they are abused.
Abused to the extent that they are seen as inferior and supposed to be obedient and show patience.
Amadou Amal has really shocked people with this book. So many triggers this book has.
This book was almost unbearable to read, so incredibly sad that women could ever be treated such as “things” instead of as actual people.
Read if your stomach can endure!

Thank you NetGalley and Djaili Amadou Amal for this free ebook, in exchange for my honest opinion.

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THE IMPATIENT provides a revelatory look into infuriating cultural customs in a part of the world that is rarely spotlighted, however as a novel I simply feel impartial to it.

The book definitely sheds light on the plight of women in Cameroon whose lives are controlled by familial expectations, strict religious doctrine, and sexist cultural traditions. I like how Amal depicts the oppressive environment that's created by men but upheld by all, with women being complicit through generational, lifelong socialization and pitted against one another, and particularly enjoy Safira's section of the book. The culture is vibrant here as well, and I learn more about local food, customs, beliefs, and way of life.

However, I am not too fond of the writing (either that or perhaps the translation) that seems juvenile at times despite its serious subject. The prose, in my opinion, doesn't really befit the story, and would've benefited from more layered complexity. And while I'm aware that the characters mirror reality, many of them come across as overly flat and one-dimensional, and their struggles - while infuriating and enraging - somehow fail to make much impact with me.

Although I'm personally impartial to the novel, this is still a relevatory read that achieved the author's aim of shedding light on oppressive and misogynistic cultural traditions.

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One of the most difficult reads I've ever read, but it is such a profound, enlightening read that presented a culture to me that I was ignorant about.

The three female perspectives created a strong voice and brought to light the injustices women faced. The abuse presented made me angry, and I wanted more redemption for the victims.

This book is heartbreaking but necessary.

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We meet Ramla when she is 17 and in a space of renouncing potential suitors. She has hopes of becoming a scientist and her family doesn't understand her lack of excitement towards becoming a wife.

Ramla ends up saying yes to Aminou, her brother's best friend, until her Uncle promises her hand to his business partner instead. Ramla will be the first time Alhadji takes on a second wife and his first wife, Safira, will stop at no end to prevent this marriage from lasting. In many ways what Ramla endures came as a surprise and the book drives a powerful point home about internalized misogyny and the ways women intentionally and unintentionally inflict further harm upon each other when it goes unexamined.

It was Ramla's sister, Hindou, who I didn't believe would make it to the end of the story. Married off to a cousin who tried to rape her in her youth, Hindou endures unspeakable abuse and brutality at the hands of her husband, Mubarak. That is until her family is forced to defend her against further violence. In this story, there is no protection for the women who suffer. Just a reminder to remain patient- even in the face of abuse. Cheers to The Impatient who refused to accept violence and got away!

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