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Although the books focuses on Pastor Jude, the main character, the reader is, however, taken on a journey across three generations in a bid to establish Jude’s ancestry.
Death’s Laughter starts with Pastor Jude’s attendance of a meeting at Ogbere. Being the electoral commission’s supply, logistics and finance expert, he is at the meeting to discuss the forthcoming election, alongside other participants from the academia, military, Central Bank, police, among others.
Although Pastor Jude resides in Abuja, the headquarters of the electoral commission, his family resides in Lagos. His wife, being a top bank executive, finds it hard to relocate to the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to join her husband, and as a result, the man finds himself occasionally shuttling between Abuja and Lagos to see his family. During the conference at Ogbere, however, his mind wanders on the huge workload he has on his hands, and as such, sees it as an opportunity not to see his family in Lagos; it’s been six months that he last saw them, and he already knows there is a crack in his relationship with his wife, Funmi. After the conference, he decides to fly back to Abuja, without stopping over to see his family in Lagos. He, however didn’t make it back to his base alive, as the plane crashes shortly after take-off.
This, however, didn’t signify the end of the story, as it is just the beginning.
The reader is then taken back to the 1930s, where the tribulations of Akanke, Pastor Jude’s mother, are revealed. Akanke tells her story about her unlucky love life, especially how she lost two husbands. She finally moves to Ijumu, and as time goes on, gets married to Akanji, her friend’s brother, who has earlier lost his wife and child in a road accident. Getting married to Akanji is not an easy thing for Akanke to decide, but with the pleadings of her friend, Foluke, she gives the relationship a try and thus, gives birth to Jude Akanmu Babajide (Pastor Jude).
However, at Jude’s birth, his aunt and friend to his mother, Foluke, notices a strange occurrence when he is born. She has this special spiritual gift which makes her to see what other mortals can’t. So by Jude’s bedside, she sees Alabuntu (Death). Worried by this, she consults the oracle, which reveals that for the child to fulfil his destiny on earth, his father must bear a sacrifice on his behalf.
This, however, becomes impossible because the father, Akanji Babajide, has converted to Christianity and is already a priest of the Anglican Church communion.
As time goes on, Akanke, Jude’s mother, dies while trying to give birth. It is not long after this that Akanji also dies after a brief illness. Jude is then brought up by his aunt, Foluke; she sees him through school. The reader then travels with Jude through the university, to when he finally gets a job with the electoral commission. He is earlier based in Lagos, but when he is made the head of supply, logistics and finance, he moves to Abuja, without his family, so that his wife’s job as a bank executive will not suffer disruption.
In Abuja, at first, Jude, being a pastor, tries to live a holy life, which he preaches in church, but because of his position in the electoral commission, politicians begin to lure him so he can do their biddings. His resistance first earns him a suspension, as the powerful politicians work behind the scene to get him suspended. Upon his resumption, he is made to know that he can be dismissed finally if he continues to play hard ball. In the end, he succumbs, and for his support, money starts flowing into his accounts, which he uses in buying choice properties across the world.
Meanwhile, Pastor Jude has also secretly married Ayokunnu. She lost her fiancé, and in the course of Pastor Jude counselling her, they develop a relationship, she thereafter, has a set of twins for him. Funmi, the legal wife has also discovered her husband is cheating on her, and is also seriously considering flirting with her boss, who has been trying to woo her.
Pastor Jude, however, tired of the work at the electoral commission, plans to resign; his thought is to relocate to Ghana, where he has bought a house. He has put his account in order and plans that as soon as he returns from the meeting at Ogbere, he will hand in his resignation and then move to Ghana. It is on his return journey that the airplane crashes. The title of the book, Death’s Laughter, can be found here, in the proverb which says: Eda to mo’la o si; to dia f’éni ti o ni d’ola, to n d’osu mefa (Nobody knows tomorrow; the divination for the person who won’t last tomorrow but is planning for the next six months)
The story gets more interesting as the legal wife, Funmi, discovers her husband is secretly married to another woman, who has a set of twins for him.
The author’s use of Yoruba proverbs to spice each opening makes the book more lively, and in his comment, Professor Niyi Afolabi of the University of Texas at Austin, says: “Death’s Laughter offers a quintessential work that transgress the limit of dated binary opposition between truth and fiction, realism and imitation, ethics and political corruption and ultimately, the missing link between locality and universality.”
Also, Professor Jenny De Reuck of the Murdoch University, Perth, Australia, says: “Death’s Laughter is a challenging reading experience that asks the reader to piece the mosaic of Pastor Jude’s life together, relying on homodiegetic mediators for the totality of the reading. Yoruba culture specifically, and contemporary Nigeria’s more generally, become characters of a kind within Death’s Laughter.”Share