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BN Book Review: Twenty-20; Stories and Lessons from the Pandemic Year | Review by Esther Okunlola



Almost one year after we bade the ominous year 2020 farewell, its impact and aftermath remain stuck on us like a bad eczema. Without a doubt, 2020 was an unforgettable year; it was a year that brought our mortality closer to home. As we were all eager to get past the year and move on swiftly, it is important not to forget. We must carry the lessons with us as the compass to navigate the next decades. 

There is no better way to preserve the turmoil and twists the year 2020 put everyone through than to document our individual experiences in the most authentic manner. This essay collection is a testament to the different ways this particular leap year hit everyone – cold, hard and unrepentant. Merely floating, we turned to ourselves for warmth, love and assurance that we will live to fight another day. This is proof that there is always a slice of sunlight during the darkest of days. 

Curated by Tope Akintayo, Twenty-20: Stories and Lessons from the Pandemic Year explores the pandemic year through the experience of thirteen people from different walks of life. In her essay, Lawretta Egba, calls the year a different kind of madness. She says, “Humankind probably did not know it could take this much before this year… for the first time, we all paused.” She goes on to express how she nurtured high hopes for the year before the year “tapered down like a wide grin that folded into sadness and ultimately indifference.” Her story blends the tragedy, the hope and the change that 2020 brought. 

The year met Ibrahim Babatunde Ibrahim slowly adjusting to the life of a writer after the glitz and glamour of being a media personality. He shares some of the significant events that happened to him during the year and the importance of gratitude while only being down and not totally out. For Busayo Oyewole, the year revealed to her a fatal flaw; something she totally did not expect to have. For Osatare Omonkhegbe, the year reaffirmed to her how much women were being maligned constantly. 

Amidst the bad news circulating around the world, some have good news to share. In “COVID-19 And Me” Zainab Muhammed says, ‘Time spent at home gave me a chance to discover myself. . . I discovered that writing is all I want to do.’ For Tobi Eyinade, her ‘business became more than just a book sales venture.’ She was able to come up with novel ideas and develop systems that work for her and her team. And more importantly, she loved the amount of ‘me times’ the year afforded her. 

Twenty-20 is not a voluminous book. I like the brevity of the stories even while packed with myriad lessons. Each contributor made sure to leave one or two important take-home in their essay. I wouldn’t particularly say I have a favourite essay as each essay has its distinctive quality. Not surprising because our experiences are unique to each of us. One important thing I realized from this collection is that the pandemic brought everyone to their knees regardless of how fast paced our lives were pre-COVID-19. The pandemic helped some of us focus on important aspects of our lives such as family and strengthening communal bonds. Also, the contributors expressed themselves in all their vulnerable glory and it was beautiful to read. Being able to do that shows how human and how humane they are. I would recommend this collection if you want to relive the lessons of the pandemic and how many navigated their way through an unprecedented year. 



Esther Okunlola is a Content Marketing specialist and literary enthusiast. When she is not consumed by work, she is writing short stories and poetry.

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