At the beginning of the year, the book Wahala by Nikki May was all over Instagram. Everything intrigued me – the beautiful book cover, the premise about female friendships, Nigerian culture/food, and even a character with my namesake, what?! Sign me up!
The novel centers around three British-Nigerian best friends (Boo, Ronke, Simi) living in London who met in college and bonded because of their Nigerian background. Now, in their thirties, the women are at different stages of their lives are still “tight-knit.” Ronke wants the “perfect life” – a handsome husband and adorable kids. She is currently dating Kayode, who she believes is the one; however, her friends are doubtful and suspect she is wasting her time. Boo, who works part-time, has a charming husband and daughter but is unsatisfied. She craves more from her life. Simi has flawless style, a supportive husband, and her dream job; meanwhile, no one knows she is plagued with insecurities. Furthermore, she has no interest in pregnancy, while her husband thinks they are trying. Unfortunately, Wahala comes in the name of Isobel, who infiltrates the group, causing all kinds of drama, gossip, and infighting amongst the friends.
The book was written in a conversational style, engaging the reader from the start. It was entertaining and easy to digest. I found it difficult to put down because I was dying to see what happened next. There were some elements of the plot that I appreciated and others I disliked.
I enjoyed the Nigerian food, fashion, history, and language infused throughout the book. The author adding Ronke’s recipes at the end of the novel was a nice touch, and it made me want to try them immediately. However, despite the Nigerian culture being beautifully blended into the story, the frequent explanation of every word was redundant. Allow the reader to figure out the word’s meaning through context. Also, trashing Nigerian men and idolizing other men was tough to swallow – having just one respectable Nigerian man (maybe Kayode?) in the book would have made the attacks more bearable. Lastly, although the author cleverly drops significant clues throughout the storyline, leading to a predictable conclusion, the ending itself is excessive.
A few readers may feel that the novel is too superficial and needs more substance. While the book is on the lighter side for my taste, the author highlighted a few important topics. The major one for me was women’s friendship. What astonished me was that Boo, Ronke, and Simi had known each other for almost 20 years yet were clueless about each other’s secrets. The insertion of Isobel into the group displayed the superficiality of their connection and gave her free reign to cause disruption. I will admit that some antics between the friends were immature and could have been solved by having frank conversations. However, there was little space for meaningful communication between the friends since they were too preoccupied with their discontentment or busy projecting an ideal life, which is why the relationships remained on the surface level.
I was not a fan of any of the women, except maybe Ronke, who I thought was the most authentic, but a pushover. Boo was confused and needed to reflect on her aspirations. Simi was passive and needed to cultivate her voice. Isobel was just evil! The constant disparaging comments about Ronke’s singlehood by both Boo and Simi were distasteful. Regrettably, the demonizing of singlehood continues to be a societal reality and problem. Quite honestly, some women believe they have reached a certain status once they are married or have children and are unwilling to express their struggles or show cracks in the veneer to their single friends even though everybody understands unhappiness!
In conclusion, some of their escapades were perplexing and detracted from the storyline, and ultimately, their friendship was underwhelming and less than desirable.
So, how would you describe friendship?
Yes, this wasn’t friendship that I recognised! I enjoyed reading about Nigerian-British people in London (but again, all the explanations! I’ve seen a plantain and a head-wrap and I can look other stuff up!). It was a fun read and I kept thinking with all the insta stuff etc at least more people are going to read a novel by a Black writer featuring almost all Black characters … But the stereotypes of men were troublesome, we shouldn’t be pushing against stereotyping women then doing that. (PS sorry I have just been all over your blog with my comments – I don’t get much discussion on my own blog when I review books by Global Majority Folk (though that doesn’t stop me reviewing and pushing them, obvs) and it’s exciting to be able to talk about these books with someone who’s read the same ones I have!
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Thank you so much for reading all of my work. It is great to discuss books we have in common; it is hard to find others to discuss with at times. But, yes, this was not true friendship!
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I’m so glad you didn’t feel overwhelmed when I got excited finding all these books I’ve read discussed intelligently and in detail. And I’ve done my readers a bit of a wrong as there’s been quite a big discussion on my review of You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty! I’m going to send my friend Ali (Heaven-ali on the blogs) your way as she reads a lot of the same books, too.
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Aww, thank you. I will check out her blog as well. I’m always happy to discuss these books.