Like a Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun
by Sarah Ladipo Manyika
Morayo Da Silva, a cosmopolitan Nigerian woman, lives in hip San Francisco. On the cusp of seventy-five, she is in good health and makes the most of it, enjoying road trips in her vintage Porsche, chatting to strangers, and recollecting characters from her favourite novels. Then she has a fall and her independence crumbles. Without the support of family, she relies on friends and chance encounters. As Morayo recounts her story, moving seamlessly between past and present, we meet Dawud, a charming Palestinian shopkeeper, Sage, a feisty, homeless Grateful Dead devotee, and Antonio, the poet whom Morayo desired more than her ambassador husband.
A subtle story about ageing, friendship and loss, this is also a nuanced study of the erotic yearnings of an older woman.
“Like a Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun” is such a quirky title I had to give this one a go!
Shortlisted for The Goldsmiths Prize in 2016, this book tells the story of Morayo Da Silva. Morayo is a 75 year old Nigerian woman living in San Francisco, she’s a retired university professor and the ex-wife of a Nigerian ambassador. When we first meet her, she’s worrying about a medical test that she’s being forced to take following a complaint about her driving. Feeling and acting younger than her age, she’s a little eccentric can’t believe that she may have to give up her beloved Porsche that she has fondly named “Buttercup”.
The novel moves from the voice of Morayo into first person narration from a number of the unique characters she knows or meets in her life. From cake shop owner Amirah to her friendly “daughter” Sunshine. Each finding Morayo as delightful and dignified as the last. I find I always enjoy reading the story from another character’s perspective however in this case it sometimes took a while to understand who was speaking, which in such a short chapter I did feel took away from it a little. Perhaps the author could have entitled each chapter with the characters name to clear things up from the start.
“He chuckles, thinking that once upon a time she must have been stunning – such a tall woman with a fine ass, even now. She was probably even stylish, although now, at her age, all these bright colours with the pencil and flowers sticking out of her hair only made her look odd.”
I know that this book is intended to be a novella, but I felt that the story had so much more potential and many more avenues to explore. Morayo is portrayed as such a vibrant, engaging woman full of life, adventure and comedy. It would have been nice to spend more time getting to know her, exploring her history and watching her friendships blossom. If the goal of a novella is to make you want more, Sarah Ladipo Manyika has certainly achieved that.
Overall rating: I enjoyed reading about the life of Morayo Da Silva, but I wanted more. This book could easily have been 300 pages and I would have enjoyed it just as much. That said, “Like a Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun” gets a solid 4 stars from me. The plot is not action packed, so don’t go in expecting it to be. It’s simple but sweet, recommended for an easy read focused on the life and the personality of the characters themselves.