The Middle Daughter by Chika Unigwe

The Middle Daughter

Introducing Nani: The Tragic Protagonist

“I fear the man who is my husband”.

What goes through the mind of a woman who fears her own husband? This is the central question that begins the tragic story of Nani. She finds her world thrown into utter chaos in the wake of the death of her sister and father.

Nigerian author Chika Unigwe takes readers on a journey of loss, grief, and, ultimately, redemption.

Rekindling my Love for African Literature

Growing up, I primarily read Western literature. However, several outstanding Nigerian classics have remained etched in my mind over the years. While I’m familiar with the works of Chinua Achebe and Buchi Emecheta, I’ve not kept up with the works of newer writers. That’s why I decided to read The Middle Daughter by Chika Unigwe.

I wanted to rediscover my love for African literature and learn more about my people. Plus, the jacket cover was simply stunning.

A Smooth Writing Style

Chika Unigwe’s writing style is clear and easy to read. I was able to breeze through The Middle Daughter without getting bogged down by convoluted sentence structures or unfamiliar vocabulary, subsequently finishing the entire book in less than a day.

Stumbling Blocks Everywhere

Despite my admiration for Unigwe’s writing style, I must confess that I didn’t enjoy the book overall. The first thirty pages seemed quite promising, but the remaining parts felt disjointed and disconnected.

Nani, the protagonist, is a sad and clearly traumatized woman whose life falls into the hands of her controlling husband. Unfortunately, much of the story doesn’t feel credible. In many ways, Nani comes across as plain stupid instead of being confused by grief, misunderstood by family, and consequently falling for a beguiling manipulator.

Try as much as I did, and I couldn’t sympathize with her. None of her decisions made sense to me, and I grew increasingly impatient trying to make sense of her character.

Poor Character Development

The Middle Daughter is largely told from the perspective of three characters; Nani, Ugo (her younger sister), and her husband, Ephraim. There are also narrations by Udodi, the ghost of Nani’s dead sister(I think). Unfortunately, the characters are all poorly developed. None of them felt like actual people, and only Ephraim comes close.

A Lack of Locational Color

The novel is based primarily in Enugu, with a few side scenes in the United States. Though these locations are central to the story, they add little to the story itself. In fact, I was left feeling like the author could have done a lot more to add color to the locations and help them come alive.

A Climax That Fails to Impress

Throughout The Middle Daughter, readers wait for Nani to take a stand and fight for her freedom. Sadly, when the moment finally comes, the payoff is unsatisfying. The issue of poor character development sadly extends to the story’s climax.

The climax feels anticlimactic, lacking the tension and catharsis that such a scene would usually bring. In a way, Nani’s liberation doesn’t have enough to do with her, leaving me feeling like the story failed to deliver its core promise.

Conclusion: A Disappointing Read

As much as I wanted to enjoy The Middle Daughter, the truth is that it didn’t live up to my expectations. The author’s other books, Night Dancer and On Black Sisters Street, were much better.

I really wanted to like it, but was sadly disappointed. In the words of Sidney Sheldon, “The pain of disappointment is the price we pay for hope.”

However, don’t let my opinion deter you from reading it. This might just be one of those stories that are only meant for a select niche of readers, and you could be one of them.


Meet Nyerhovwo, an avid reader and aspiring polygot. Nyerhovwo spends most of his time reading. He enjoys exploring all genres of fiction except for romance, and is particularly fond of Stephen King and literary fiction. Nyerhovwo is also learning French and loves watching thought-provoking dramas, anime and Korean films.

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