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Leave My Bones in Saskatoon

by Michael Afenfia

Michael Afenfia (Liam Richards)

Before arriving at its destination of Saskatoon, Canada, Michael Afenfia’s Leave My Bones in Saskatoon has a layover in Abuja, Nigeria. There, the reader meets Owoicho Adakole, a television presenter, who is at a visa application office picking up six passports for himself and his family, stamped with Canadian visas that he and his wife have spent two years and several thousand Nigerian naira to obtain. Owoicho can’t wait to begin what he hopes will be a safer and more stable life in Canada with his family, but before he can tell his wife Ene – who is returning from a visit to her parents in Makurdi, accompanied by their 17-year-old son, Inalegwu, and 13-year-old twins, Okupi and Ejuma – about the good news, unexpected violence takes most of Owoicho’s family from him. 

Owoicho and his 15-year-old daughter Ochanya try to go through the motions of their old life despite the gaping hole left by the murder of their family. They oscillate between denial, despair, anger, resentment, and self-blame. The looming expiration date of their visas only emphasizes what they have lost. Father and daughter eventually make the difficult decision to leave Abuja, which has grown cold due to the lingering ghosts. But on their arrival they discover that Saskatoon is even colder when it comes to both the temperature and the possibilities it offers to newcomers. 

Leave My Bones in Saskatoon honestly depicts the hard realities of socio-economic inequality, political uncertainty, and physical danger that compel migrants to leave the familiarity of their home countries for opportunities abroad. It also shows – and more often tells, through detailed dialogue that code-switches between English and Nigerian Pidgin – the even harsher realities immigrants experience when they arrive abroad and find out that few opportunities are available to people with thick accents and only foreign work experience.

The novel offers the reader a glimpse into Nigeria and its culture, and illustrates how the latter becomes, as a character tells Owoicho, essential to immigrants: “You think you are running away from your country, and then you arrive here and news about home suddenly becomes your oxygen.” These diasporic Nigerians long for the familiarity of their homeland but endure the discomfort of starting over somewhere else for the sake of their children. Spanning two very different cities on two continents, Leave My Bones in Saskatoon is a story of loss, sacrifice, and people’s continued resilience in the face of both.


Reviewer: Zeahaa Rehman

Publisher: Griots Lounge Publishing Canada


Price: $25.99

Page Count: 286 pp

Format: Paper

ISBN: 978-1-77768-847-9

Released: April

Issue Date: April 2023

Categories: Fiction: Novels