There is something incredibly sad and beautiful about short stories; it lies in their brevity, their ability to capture readers attention in a short time, leaving them sated, but not so sated. It is this quality that makes them worth their salt. It is this same quality that makes the stories in Tall Tales absolutely distinct. Obi Echezona’s debut collection boasts of stories that will leave tiny lasting imprints on the reader’s mind.

The collection starts off with the story of Bright, a banker who hates his job with unquantifiable passion. He works just so he can meet his basic needs—food, clothing, and shelter. His journey to working with a difficult boss begins after his snide comment about a customer’s bosom, which earns him a query and his demotion. His new boss’ moods are as unstable as the July weather: one minute, he is a jolly fellow, next he is barking orders. Bright is “bachelor-shamed” by his boss and ignored by his colleagues. Echezona’s language is thick with sarcasm, and this is evident in Bright’s internal monologue; he describes his boss’ fingers as “sausages sewn together for easy handling”; someone too lazy to even draw breath on his own due to “his soft, inflated balloon shape.” The placement of Bright’s story as one of the first three in this collection is not a mistake; it serves perfectly as a cushion for the other heavy-themed stories we are introduced to in subsequent chapters.

Echezona questions existing social and political systems in this collection. In “Farewell Party,” a speculative fiction set in a utopian world, everything appears perfect or everyone strives for perfection. It is the twenty-third century and wealth and status are acquired with points. Everyone must remain in their best behavior, yet, tempers flare, jealousy simmers, hatred rears its ugly head, and points drop. This reaffirms that humans are flawed, and perfection is near impossible. Celine loses a friend to the mandatory farewell party, a milestone that marks the beginning for every citizen who is unable to attain perfection. In her book, she gives us an insight into the making of this utopian society—the backdrop needed to better understand the tenet on which this futuristic society is built. We are thrown into a world where mistakes can be fatal and humans are not permitted to err.

In “Child Abuse”, two girls bond over their traumatic history until one is dealt a heavy hand. “Chronic Hunger” demonstrates the yawning gap between the rich and the poor. “New Money” highlights the adverse effects of get-rich-quick schemes and the unkind light they casts on individuals who struggle to make ends meet. “Just A Little Robbery” is illustrative of the axiom that “those who live in glass houses do not throw stones.” You wouldn’t want to be caught in “The Dream”, “The Lift” and “Halfway House” in real life. These stories are thick with suspense. Obi Echezona introduces a wide range of characters. You might find the climax in “Electric Pole” alarming, but the circumstances leading to that climax is one most Lagosians are familiar with. 

Obi Echezona’s language is commendable. Each word, each sentence, and each paragraph in this collection are not wasted. Perhaps the most crucial point about these stories is not only that they are relatable but that they are full of diverse characters that you can root for. Bright’s story sets a high bar for all the others that follow, and none of them fall short. Of the fourteen short stories featured in this collection, “Farewell Party” is the longest and you would wish for it to be longer because it dissects our society to its core.

A typical disadvantage of short stories is their brevity, but it is also one of their advantages: their ability to capture more in a single plot. There are some characters that could do with a little more depth, so that readers can watch them develop and navigate their way beyond the confines of a single plot. Nonetheless, Echezona crafted each story in a way that gives readers a satisfying experience. This collection is a truly, remarkable montage of lives.

About the Author:

Esther Okunlola is a content writer at The BookLady NG.