Do you believe in reincarnation? If you don’t, we used to be on the same page. However, my perspective shifted when I read “When We Were Fireflies.” The book transported me into its vivid world, making me feel like I was right there alongside the characters.
This is the power of exceptional writers. When I first delved into his work, specifically “Seasons of Crimson Blossoms,” I was captivated by the story. The impact was so profound that I eagerly sought out his first short stories collection, “The Whispering Trees,” which left me in awe. I am eagerly looking forward to reading his other book, Dreams and Assorted Nightmares, which remains the only one in his collection that I have yet to explore.
In our Minna literary society session, I recall an interesting game we played where we shared our favorite authors. When it was my turn, I proudly proclaimed that Abubakar Adam Ibrahim was my favorite author. However, a fellow participant teased me and asked why I admired him so much. I confidently responded, explaining that I appreciate Ibrahim’s ability to capture familiar elements of the north and our culture in his writing.
When asked which character I would love to be, I replied Aziza. My reasoning behind this choice stemmed from my infatuation with Yarima Lalo, as being Aziza would potentially allow me to experience his love firsthand. However, when the topic shifted to discussing our favorite books, to my dismay, the group unanimously chanted “When We Were Fireflies.”
In the captivating novel “When We Were Fireflies” by Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, a recipient of the prestigious NLNG Nigeria Prize for Literature, the author skillfully intertwines the journeys of various individuals whose paths are fated to collide, drift apart, and ultimately come together across different eras. Through masterful storytelling and the creation of deeply compelling characters, Ibrahim explores the profound depths of love’s resilience, the heartache of being torn apart, and the unwavering optimism of reuniting in future lives.
“When We Were Fireflies” is indeed a captivating and thought-provoking novel that takes readers on an unforgettable journey. The story revolves around the heartfelt journey of Yarima Lalo, who encounters Aziza at a train station, triggering a surge of memories from his past lives, wherein he experienced two untimely deaths. As Yarima and Aziza’s paths intertwine, an undeniable connection forms between them, leading to a gradual and profound love that blossoms despite the societal norms and expectations.
Aziza, a widow with a precious daughter named Mina, carries her own baggage of loss and pain. Despite the complications that come with her previous marriage, Yarima sees beyond societal judgments and forms a deep connection with her. This aspect of their relationship may indeed challenge the traditional beliefs held by many in the northern region, where such situations may be viewed as awkward or unconventional.
In the aftermath of Aziza’s husband untimely demise, She constantly faces pressure from her own brother-in-law to gain custody of Mina, as he desired to place her under the care of himself and their grief-stricken mother, who has been deeply affected by the loss of her son. Aziza, the proprietor of a beauty parlour, encounters Indo, the love of Yarima’s life in a previous existence, where they embarked on a daring elopement attempt due to her father’s disapproval of their union.
As Yarima faces the prospect of a third death, he embarks on a poignant journey alongside Aziza, in search of fragments from his previous existence following the loss of Kande, his forthcoming mother, who has been afflicted by a mysterious sleeping ailment. Yarinya, the soul collector, has aided him in bidding a heartfelt farewell to her at the heart of Life Camp Roundabout in Abuja.
Accompanied by his faithful pet Diallo and Mina, they traverse the unknown realms of remembrance, delving into the depths of his past to uncover the secrets that lie dormant and to unearth the connections that bind them across lifetimes.
In Kano, they crossed paths with Indo, who shared the complete narrative, allowing them to indulge in nostalgic recollections of their previous life. The reminiscing stirred feelings of jealousy within Aziza as they pondered the past. However, upon reflecting further, Indo’s advanced age made Aziza realize that there was no need for jealousy. In their previous existence, Yarima was known as Babayo, while Indo bore the name Indon Babayo.
In Kafanchan, the path of Yarima’s second life unfolded. It was there that he encountered his beloved, Turai. In his second existence, Yarima went by the name Inuwa Ƙamshi, a man who would return from his agricultural endeavors carrying the fragrance of a blooming garden at night. Tragically, Turai chose to take her own life upon learning a devastating revelation brought to light by Yarima.
After their stay in Kafanchan, Aziza and Yarima decided to pay a visit to Aziza’s mother in Kaduna, with whom she had a longstanding feud. Following the resolution of their familial dispute, they journeyed to Jos. It was in Jos that Yarima sought vengeance upon Basiru(Baba Karambau), the individual responsible for his untimely demise in his previous life, brought about due to the influence of Indo.
In the final moments of the story, the revelation of Aziza’s husband being alive creates a tense and complicated situation for Yarima Lalo. With his love and life at stake, he finds himself grappling with melancholy and uncertainty. The threat posed by Aziza’s husband adds a new layer of suspense and raises the stakes for Yarima. Furthermore, another man enters the picture, posing a danger to Yarima’s life from another angle.
As the story reaches its climax, the remaining paragraphs hold the key to resolving these intertwined conflicts. The readers are left with anticipation and curiosity about how the author will tie up all the loose ends and bring the narrative to its conclusion. While reading the last page of this book, my brother came in and I had to Scream at him to leave. I was eager to know how it will all end, with just a few paragraphs left.
Will Yarima Lalo live to enjoy his love life with Aziza or die like he did in his previous lives? Grab a copy of When We Were Fireflies to find out!