If there isn’t anything to say about The Return of Half-Something by Chukwudi Eze, there is the fact that the plot is brilliantly crafted and the story flows from one action to another, told in beautiful language with a steady voice and vivid descriptions. But there are several somethings to say about this beautiful, culturally relevant book.
The book which opens with a semi-fast pace, introduces us to the reality of Emmanuel, the young man, whose story we are going to follow with excitement and consciousness. Based in New York, Emmanuel is the result of a hard-fought conjugation between his Igbo father and his Caucasian mother. A young man who has managed to struggle with identity disillusionment as a result of his heritage. Being the seed of a black man and a white woman has resulted in the continuous use of half-somethings to describe him; half-caste, half-fish and half-boy, “Spock”, and so forth. All of which are subtle jabs at his shared parenthood. Here, the story presents to us, a prevailing reality in much of the western world, one of racism that is ingrained even in the most “innocent” children – who, in turn, exact discrimination on their peers.
The subject of racism and heartbreak form the opening pages of this The Return of Half-Something. Even if this is not the kind of story that you would rush through – I must confess that I fell asleep at several points in the story – the story offers an opportunity to talk about the subject of race, discrimination and differences generally. While attending a highbrow event where he hopes to network with and establish connections with top players in the industry that he is hoping to build a career, a pretty woman catches his eye and, try as he would, she doesn’t pay him as much attention as to even offer her identity or share her story with him.
Considering that this meeting follows a dream he had the night before, where he is handed a pearl, he is desperate to make the acquaintance of this woman as he believes she is the pearl that was handed to him in his dream. When he pressurizes his cousin to help him find out the identity of the mysterious woman, he finds out that she is a Conservative Jew who has had her heart broken by one she was supposed to marry and who functions as the vice-president of her father’s company. His cousin, Anna, informs him that a relationship between him and the lady was not likely considering his race and religious inclination. And, even though Emmanuel is determined to disregard this warning, it reminds us of a serious issue of race in the society where the story is set.
In The Return of Half-Something, Chukwudi Eze shows us the essence of community and identity by using these subtle incidences and occurrences. We are shown the importance of having siblings – displayed in Anna’s unending dedication to help her cousin. And we are also introduced to the very vital role of parental influence on the growth of the individual. It is his father, Uchechi, that helps strengthen his understanding of his identity and gives him the instruction never to get too used to the foreigner’s land and forget his roots.