Sarah Ladipo Manyika’s “Like a Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun”

A short insight in the life story of a cosmopolitan Nigerian woman, old age and friendship

A novel with a memorable main character from whom everyone can learn something. Dr. Morayo Da Silva teaches the reader what old age can mean, how unexpected events can change your way of life, and how to deal with this.

Dr. Morayo Da Silva is about to celebrate her 75th birthday. She is a retired professor of English Literature and a former ambassador’s wife who has travelled the world and is now living in San Francisco. Sometimes she thinks about going back to Lagos, her home town, but knows that this pull is just a nostalgic feeling which comes up from time to time. Her home is San Francisco, in her apartment with a great view and friendly neighbors.

Morayo is always up for a flirt, has some friends in her neighborhood, loves her vintage Porsche named Buttercup, and for her 75th birthday wants her first tattoo. But despite all the happiness and contentment in Morayo’s life, some traces of loneliness are visible: She talks at unnecessary length on the phone to a call centre worker, and though she has never met the postman she likes to chat with so much or the girl who works in the bakery privately, she wants to invite them to her birthday. She also thinks often about her former lover Antonio and the time they spent secretly together.

One day Morayo falls and breaks her hip. Her way of life, which until that day had been independent, changes suddenly. She has to rearrange her life completely, which is not as easy as it seems. How she does it is described not only by Morayo herself as a first person narrator but also through the eyes of a diverse range of other characters who are somehow connected to Morayo. This gives the reader not only the personal and subjective point of view of the main character, but also a wider range of opinions and perspectives from characters like Reggie and Pearl, who meet Morayo for the first time in the novel, or her neighbor Sunshine, who has known her for several years and who symbolizes in a way the daughter she never had.

Through their opinions, all the characters presented provide an insight into Morayo as a figure with many facets, talents and qualities, but also show how different people handle the issue of age. Some characters describe her as an old lady, some as a kind of mother, and one sees her as a desirable woman.

The issue of old age plays an important role in the book and is one of the main topics besides family, friendship, identity and lust, which are all, in a way, related to the main topic. Old age is approached here in a refreshing way because the person who tells the story of the novel is herself old and the reader gets the chance to see the world through the eyes of a 74 year old woman who has experienced a lot of good but also really bad things in her life. Topics which are normally not discussed in public, like sexuality in old age, are mentioned and explored. Loss, which comes up more and more the older people get, also plays a role.

After reading this novel I thought a lot about it. It is not a book you should read if you just  want to be entertained without having to think. It is a book that deals with a topic that sooner or later affects every person’s life. Like a Mule bringing Ice Cream to the Sun is a novel that leads the reader to a thought-provoking insight into how complex and broad the construct of old age is.

Anna-Lena Stamer

One thought on “Sarah Ladipo Manyika’s “Like a Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun”

  1. I’ve just finished reading “Like a Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun” and I enjoyed it so I’m glad to see that you agree. If anything, I felt like I wanted more of Morayo, I feel like her personality deserved several more pages and think I could easily make my way through a couple of hundred more pages of her life. Would you agree? If you’d like to see what I thought of this book, my review is just up!

    Rebecca – https://whatrebeccasread.wordpress.com/2018/04/11/like-a-mule-bringing-ice-cream-to-the-sun/

    Like

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