I have to hold my hands up and say that I only read this book because I felt like I was missing out. I’d heard lots of rave reviews on Booktube and even though the premise of the story didn’t really grab me, I felt like I was missing the bandwagon and so I took the plunge and reserved it at the library. (Albeit poutily).
When it came in I STILL didn’t turn to it straight away. It lay languishing at the bottom of my TBR library pile. It was only because I knew it was nearing its due to be returned date that I felt the pressure to finally pick it up. I must also admit I very nearly took it back unread because I knew it wasn’t renewable because someone else had reserved it.
I am so glad I didn’t return it unread. This is the kind of book that in an ideal world I would have liked to sit down and devour it in one sitting. Alas, work and children and actually having to participate in adult life kinda scuppers that. The best laid plans eh?…
So I read it in intense bursts on the bus to work or before bed at night and thoroughly ate it up.
I don’t usually have any trouble conjuring up the images to go with a story. I’m quite quick to develop an idea of what a house looks like, a person, a landscape etc but this book was super fast at depicting the imagery without really going into reams of detail. It was as if in the opening few pages my brain had been opened up and the pictures and images dropped inside. I immediately felt as if I was there in the room with the opening characters.
So just to give some explanation of the story (without giving too much away of course) and assuming you’ve not already heard lots about it already. The central characters are Yejide and Akin a married couple living in Nigeria and the story is told from both of their view points. They have been married for (I think) 4 years and are desperately trying for a baby with no success. Yejide has been coerced by various family members into participating in various rituals, prayers, ceremonies of sorts and trying remedies, potions etc all to finally become pregnant. The outside pressure on the couple to have a baby is tremendous and this ultimately begins to erode their marriage.
“I had expected them to talk about my childlessness. I was armed with millions of smiles. Apologetic smiles, pity me smiles, I-look-unto-god smiles – name all the fake smiles needed to get through an afternoon with a group of people who claim to want the best for you while poking at your open sore with a stick – and I had them ready. I was ready to listen to them tell me I must do something about my situation. I expected to hear about a new pastor I could visit; a new mountain where I could go to pray; or an old herbalist in a remote village or town whom I could consult. I was armed with smiles for my lips, an appropriate sheen of tears for my eyes and sniffles for my nose. I was prepared to lock up my hairdressing salon throughout the coming week and go in search of a miracle with my mother-in-law in tow. What I was not expecting was another smiling woman in the room. A yellow woman with a blood red mouth who grinned like a new bride.”
It’s quite difficult to talk about this book in too much detail as I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but lets just say that Yejide does eventually get pregnant but there are various occurrences along the way which do not make life easy for the couple starting within the first chapter with the discovery that Akin is has taken a second wife in the hope that she will become pregnant first and somehow this will invite children into his marriage with Yejide, the woman he actually loves.
At times this story is heartbreaking, lots of anguish and despair but ultimately has moments of hope. I was fascinated by both the Nigerian culture and the lifestyle described by the author. She wrote about it all so assuredly that each image was depicted perfectly, it was almost as if I was there knowing nothing about African culture yet living it with the characters.
I was unsure how it was going to end and was afraid there would be some loose ends left. However I think the conclusion was perfect and left no ambiguities. I would thoroughly recommend this book and give it 4 stars.
See you soon with another review.
Mand xx (@Bookishchat)