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In When The Fog Lifts, Unuigbe-Eroh reflects life journey

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Title: When the Fog Lifts
Author: Seme Unuigbe-Eroh
Publisher: Masobe Books
Pages: 265
Reviewer: Gregory Austin Nwakunor

Reading a new writer can leave you with a lot of prejudices: You’re not sure of what to take and left to guess what actually the person is up to. The style of the work opens your imagination and you begin to wonder, who is this new writer? Is s/he another one book wonder?

When the Fog lifts is not different when you open the book. However, what makes you happy is that a new writer who treats her subject as a ‘patient under close observation’ has emerged.

Ohiseme ‘Seme’ Unuigbe-Eroh, the writer, is a life coach and an IT security professional in the healthcare industry, who emigrated to the U.S. from Nigeria at the age of 17 in search of the Golden Fleece.

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Seme is an America Brought Up (ABU) little wonder her style is breezy and easy to follow. She deploys anecdotal technique where necessary to spice up her narration and makes for engrossing reading. Her aesthetic taste is also very good, as every word comes out beautifully, more importantly, she is faithful to her narration: Truthful and honest.

When the Fog Lifts is a collection of essays, a memoir so to say, with each piece laced with discussion and reflection questions at the end, and two journal pages.

In 265 pages, the author takes you on a journey from a life filled with chaos and confusion to a life of freedom and endless possibilities.

Part one has 12 essays, each detailing the soft side of Seme’s struggle to becoming herself. The second part has 18 essays while the third part has 13. Each of the topics takes the reader through moments of anagnorisis — A journey between the naïve, innocent African to the glocalised lady, who is now a life coach and IT professional. There is an epilogue, resources and glossary.

In the preface, Seme says, “writing has always been therapeutic for me. I’ve always known I wanted to write a book, but I didn’t know about what. I knew I had a story to tell, but I wasn’t sure if it was okay to share so much about myself and how people would receive it. So, I journaled. And then I stopped because I had no privacy. Then I started again, trying to make my writing illegible so no one could read it– not even me.”

The opening piece is titled, Me and My Marriage, and it details her struggle in her marriage. Never shying away from the hard truths about what it takes to grow, Seme is transparent in her narration, which surprisingly makes her vulnerable. This is where the ABU in her comes.

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From the opening piece, the book mirrors the agonies of an independent woman who married an indifferent spouse that had to see her work for over 40 hours weekly in order to meet their financial responsibilities, yet she returns home to do the cooking, cleaning, raising their three kids and showing up in their schools when needed without helping out.

The woman paints picture of how she bore all domestic and even financial responsibilities with no support from the spouse — not even when she was all spent and exasperated.

For 17 years, Unuigbe-Eroh lived the opposite of her perfect marriage. She endured rather than enjoyed marriage and was reduced to a “fly on the wall” by her spouse- an expert in psychological and emotional abuse, who not only subjected her to mental torture but also invaded her privacy by bugging her phones in order to subdue her.

She grew up in a home where dad pays the bills, gives mum money for food and all household expenses. She sees all these and feels that’s the way it’s supposed to be. But that was until she got married and learned the hard way.

Married, she works, goes to activities, cooks dinner, cleans, schedules, and takes kids to doctor’s appointments, wakes up at night to feed the baby, goes back to work post-partum, and plays the roles of mum and dad.

During these years, she lost her self esteem, self worth and was practically always seeking validation, appreciation and even support from a partner who was unwilling to offer any and would even deploy the silent treatment against her for several days such that she will eventually apologise for doing nothing wrong.

Her over protected childhood does not prepare her for the realities of life in marriage. Now caught between an emotionally abusive husband and childhood memories of a very different situation with her parents, Seme gives a brutally frank account of her experiences.

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“When you are in an abusive relationship, you seem like a fool to those around you. They wonder why you just don’t leave, but they don’t really see you. If they were to x-ray you, they would see that whichever way you turned there was a thorn ready to prick you, and if you tried to rise, there were roots holding you down,” she says.

The book is not just about the life of Unuigbe-Eroh, but more a cultural tapestry for the reader to know what life is before globalisation and glocalisation changed everything. It opens the mind of its reader to that innocence that blooms with knowledge. It gives the reader a moment to go on a chase and brings the person back to reality, opening doors for practical contemplation of issues.

She also narrates how her ex-husband was a control freak who never allowed her to be herself and how she overlooked the signs during their dating days either out of fear that on one else would want to marry her or because she thought he was being romantic.

She married the first person that proposed to her while she was in her early 20s. Coming from an upper, middle-class background, she had left Nigeria to school at Georgia Southwestern State University.

At that point, she wrote, “I was very sheltered, naïve, and trusting, and the only relationships I had observed up close were my parents’ and those in my family dynamic.”

When Unuigbe-Eroh had a quarrel with her husband, he would keep malice. This happened even before they got married. There was an imbalance in power and she always was the one who had to apologise. With time, she missed being cuddled and longed for her husband to pamper her or refuse to let her be when she was upset.

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When it got to the point where the communication gap between the author and her husband was unbearable, she solicited for intervention from friends. But, instead of a resolution, somehow, it turned into a blame game that defeated the main aim of the meeting.

Tired of being threatened with a divorce whenever there was an issue, Unuigbe-Eroh came to the realisation that there was need for them to separate the last time he uttered the “D” word and asked her husband to leave the house hoping it could help them heal and reconnect.

“I had been thinking of separating from my husband for a while because things were just not working out. We had tried everything I could think of, but in my opinion, things were getting worse. We were both miserable. I thought it would be best to get out of each other’s hair for a while,” she says.

Until she chose freedom, Seme Unuigbe-Eroh’s life was filled with chaos and confusion. Her book, ‘When the Fog Lifts’, tells the hard truths about being vulnerable in a marriage that is everything but healthy.

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