Carole Enahoro's Doing Dangerously Well throws us into the wild middle of an environmental and individual crisis
In a not-too-distant future, thousands of Nigerian villagers are killed when the Kainji Dam collapses. In the wake of the fictionalized yet unnervingly realistic disaster emerges a cast of characters both naive and sinister. Among the motley crew are Mary, an American water company executive who will do anything to purchase the water rights to a major African river, and her sister Barbara, an attention-grabbing activist who conspires against her sister on behalf of the Nigerian people.
Carole Enahoro’s novel, Doing Dangerously Well, is a diabolically satirical farce that leaves you shaking your head at one moment and quaking with laughter the next. During an interview with Enahoro, the author speaks about the importance of character development in creating a fiction as strange as real life. "My opinion is that characters really don’t change too much in life," she says. "You can go through different things, but in the end you circle back to your character. Generally speaking, you’re constantly learning, constantly evolving more and more into yourself."
The family rivalry that plays out in Doing Dangerously Well is a case in point. Mary Glass is anorexic and repressed; her sister Barbara is fat and overbearing. "The agendas of Barbara and Mary are informed by their constant need for affirmation and approval," says Enahoro. "With Barbara, initially her intention stems from her rivalry with her sister. But by the middle of the book her focus shifts and she becomes legitimately interested in the plight of the Nigerian people."
Enahora explains how the Glass sisters moved towards greater authenticity: "Barbara has understood that she doesn’t have to be the person who is the subject of attention. Nor does she have to allow her rivalry with Mary to fuel her. In the end it’s the horror that’s about to happen in terms of water politics that moves her. And Mary’s character recognizes that by staying with the company and revealing its murderous agenda she can further her own power."