BOOK REVIEW: AN AMERICAN MARRIAGE BY TAYARI JONES

Is there anyone out there? Do I still have any interested readers waiting for my posts? Wow! It has been too long! I apologize for my absence on this platform. I really did miss it but life happened and I just couldn’t keep up with reading and reviewing.

Actually, I have been reading but I didn’t feel compelled to review anything until now. This book by Tayari Jones reminded me that I still love to review books.

When I came across an ad on instagram for the sale of a gently used Amazon Kindle with over 600 books already on it, I didn’t think I would take up the offer. Out of sheer curiosity I reached out to the seller and before I could stop myself I had purchased said Kindle and books. This Kindle led me to my very first encounter with Tayari Jones’ words and better believe that I am in love!

There was something about this narration that stuck to me and wouldn’t let go. Even after I read the last word in the book I was still looking for more of the wholesome goodness of a well narrated story; a story that gives a a different perspective, one that says it as it is honestly and without diplomacy. A story of a black man and a black woman in America.

An American Marriage is not only beautiful, it evokes so many emotions from pain to sorrow to love and then heartbreak. Oh heartbreak! How heartbreaking can it be for an innocent man who’s convicted for a crime he did not commit and then to come back from prison and find that his wife has moved on. My heart bled for Roy and I could not hate Celestial.

An American Marriage was rich in character. I marveled at the way the author gave off the black vibe, the richness of their attitude, the awareness of their color and the reality of their situation. The characters were so properly described that I felt I would know them if they passed by me.

This story was simple enough to understand but complex enough to tug at one’s conscience. It made me question myself. What would I do if I were Celestial? Would I have stuck it out? Waiting for my man to get out of prison? And Andre? The steady friend who slips into lover once Roy is out of the picture. I wondered if it wasn’t only a matter of time before Andre and Celestial would get together.

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones was a page turner. It kept me company on my commute home from work and I latched on to the book until I had milked out the whole story.

The danger of a mistake. That is what the book really centers on. A woman claims she was raped. She claims it was Roy. Roy is incarcerated. End of story? No. This claim spirals into the lives of Celestial, her parents, Big Roy, Olive, Andre…everyone connected to Roy suffers for one woman’s wrong claim.

The author relays the story in an easy way. The dialogue, the poetry in the words, the intensity of emotions and the turn of events in the letters exchanged between the main characters. I also enjoyed the narration as it moved from Roy to Celestial and then Andre. One is able to see each character and their inner struggles.

I loved the wisdom in the book as well. Reading lines like “If you have a woman, you recognize when you have said the wrong thing. Somehow she arranges the ions in the air and you can’t breathe as well”

or

“None of this proposing via billboard or at halftime at the Rose Bowl. Marriage is between two people. There is no studio audience.”

And

“Love makes a place in your life, it makes a place for itself in your bed. Invisibly, it makes a place in your body, rerouting all your blood vessels, throbbing right alongside your heart. When it’s gone, nothing is whole again”

I cannot quote all the lines that struck me but I can tell you that I will be reading the book again. I hope you look for this book, I hope you find the time to read it. It was a fantastic read and I recommend it for anyone who is looking for a story that’s entertaining yet relevant.

Kemibon

I GOT STUCK ON “BRICK LANE”

I am having some trouble. I am having some trouble with extricating myself from the lives of Nazneen, Chanu and their two daughters. Don’t blame me; blame the author of Brick Lane, Monica Ali!

When I bought Brick Lane from one of the second hand shops I go to for my novels, I was for the most part attracted by the woman and the two little girls on the cover I got. A quick glimpse at the back cover revealed a little about the story within but nothing prepared me for the story I met. It was so engaging. Every character was so meticulously described that I felt at once that I had met them on the street, sat with them for tea or exchanged a tight embrace at one time in my own very life!

The story drew me in for its uniqueness but more so because the suspense was palpable. Now, this doesn’t happen often. The book is not a thriller, it’s not like every character dies or some great tragedy befalls everyone. It is the way the author tells the story with no serious urgency (as you follow Nazneen on her daily activities and inner musings) yet with some foreboding as though to remind the reader not to get too comfortable because something will happen. Something is always happening. Something does happen!

The lead character is easy to like. She gives off a certain innocence and beauty yet underneath that is a very present fear. She has such a busy mind. The busiest mind I have ever read about. Always, she is ruminating on one thing or the other. I instantly became Nazneen’s friend. I wanted to sit with her through her daily activities. I wanted to comfort her, I wanted to tell her it’s okay to walk away, it is okay to be depressed or sad. I urged her on into the arms of Karim (even though I knew it was wrong) and I did not feel too guilty about it! Nazneen is also deeply religious and having been brought up to accept her fate, this is what she struggles with throughout the story.

The story Monica Ali told in Brick Lane was a reminder of so many things; arranged marriages (and how it could go wrong or right?), tradition, drug abuse, parenting, grief, love (oh love!), racism, religion (and the hatred of one type over another), its hold on us, its beauty and what human beings make of it. However most predominantly; the book talks about the unpredictability of life.

The book dripped with confidence in its readiness to rebel against stereotypes. I absolutely loved it.

My favorite character would have to be Rezia, for her stability and presence in Nazneen’s life; a friend who doesn’t judge and who isn’t afraid to go against the norm.

Chanu, Nazneen’s husband talked too much! I always felt like shutting him up! But beneath all the loquaciousness of his character, the author gives us a glimpse into his fears, his sorrows and his vulnerabilities. Indeed everyone has them and this is what I see to be so real in the book.

Nazneen didn’t talk enough, it made me sad to see her resign to her fate so many times. I felt sorry for Dr Azad, his loneliness and his pain all wrapped up in his rigid form. I was alarmed at the way Hasina, Nazneen’s sister’s life went from one event to the other but I was impressed with her refusal to give up. I found Mrs. Islam quite despicable! Karim! Dear Karim, the one who made Nazneen realize she could actually be free, I was attracted to Karim, his energy, his restlessness and the way he loved Nazneen.

The use of words, the imagery, the similes! This book came through for me in every way a book should. It was funny, interesting, unputdownable and it taught me some new lessons. I couldn’t have asked for a better start to my reading this year.

I found these parts of the book very intriguing:

When Nazneen breaks things off with Karim…

“Oh Karim, that, we have already done. But always there was a problem between us. How can I explain? I wasn’t me, and you weren’t you. From the beginning to the very end, we didn’t see things. What we did – we made each other up”.

Also when Dr. Azad opens up on his inner struggles…

“What I did not know – I was a young man –is that there are two kinds of love. The kind of love that starts off big and slowly wears away, that seems you can never use it up and then one day is finished. And the kind that you don’t notice at first, but which adds a little bit to itself every day, like an oyster makes a pearl, grain by grain, a jewel from the sand”.

And when Nazneen told Chanu she would not follow him back to Bangladesh…

“He pushed his face against her palm and kissed it with great and very grave tenderness…you see, he said, and he mumbled it inside her palm. All these years I dreamed of going home a Big Man. Only now, when it’s nearly finished for me, I realized what is important. As long as I have my family with me, my wife, my daughters, I am as strong as any man alive.”

‘I can’t go with you’, she said.

‘I can’t stay’, said Chanu, and they clung to each other inside a sadness that went beyond words and tears, beyond that place, those causes and consequences, and become a part of their breath, their marrow, to travel with them from now to wherever they went”.

I highly recommend this book.

Kemibon

YOU SAW IT FIRST

TEARS

You saw it
You saw it first
You would have been unhappy
She didn’t know
But you saw it
First
And left

You would have been unhappy
You knew it
But
From what moment?
That altercation?
The one that altered your position
As head
And later
On the bed?

What moment?
The moment you withdrew
And stared at her
Like an intruder was beside you?
You saw it
The fraud of it all
The woman you married
It wasn’t her
She wasn’t her

The one
She wasn’t the one you had dreamed of

So you left
Before it became too hard to love
Her
You backed away
You gave her pity
Pity in your face
And pity in your story
Of how you had to go
Because she deserved
Castles in the air
And you had none

You saw it
You knew
That this was not enough
Those attempts she made to fit
Into you
You saw into her
Saw how her eyeballs followed you
And rested with awe on you
It scared you
Her adulation of you

You left
Because it was all too much

The pretense
The applause you rendered
Half-hearted love
You gave with that corner of your heart
That wasn’t taken
Stricken by poverty
And power
and
Desire
To be
Everything
Except
Hers

You knew it
That you would not stay
You hoped that your need
Would stride along with her
That it would co-exist
Alas
It overtook her
In wonder you turned your eyes
Towards heaven
And said
Your stars weren’t crossed
Your pity and apology
Apoplectically served
In tacos
Those delicious ones you made
Just before
The talk

You saw it
That moment she said to you
“I am the neck
I won’t break”
You panicked
‘Cause you knew
That when the moon came out
And the wolf in you was summoned out
You would tear off all hindering garments
And run out to feed

So
You left
The moon is out
And your need
Has to be fed

So
While she was packing her bags
In frenzy
Hands shaking slightly
Seeking to be brave
Searching for hope
In the dark
The dawn of your declaration

While she was planting feverishly
In the plantations of prayer

You had seen
That this day would come

You had known
That you would leave

All that was really left
Was for her to see it

And she did

She looked into wolf eyes
Saw the hunger
Heard the call of the pack
Your pack
Swept her heart off the tarmac
And slowly
Ever so slowly
Made her way to me

Signed
The man who loved her after you left

Kemibon
15/8/18

ANNA KARENINA-LEO TOLSTOY

 

vronsky.jpg

 

 

Here’s a short review of my impressions after reading Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina in 2017:

 

Well, I frankly didn’t think I would finish the book ’cause it kept going on and on, however it struck me that the reason why I liked it so much was the way in which the author narrated the story; piecing characters together, making them meet, their paths crossing and for the Anna and Vronsky changing their lives forever. I was irked at the hypocrisy of course when Anna has an affair and she gets the blame for it. I felt a tad sorry for her husband and even more so for their son. A lot of themes jumped at me from the pages: politics surely was well expressed by Tolstoy, divorce and the perception to it at that time and the unfortunate manner in which a man who cheats is expected to be forgiven by his wife as is the case with Kitty’s sister. On the other hand seeing Anna slowly degenerate and become so guilt stricken as to finally take her own life exposed the fear and shame that follows a woman who is unfaithful. I thoroughly enjoyed Levin’s thoughts and his entire character as displayed as well as his soft manner with Kitty. So many quotable quotes are scattered around the book and on the whole I will give the book 4 stars out of 5.

I am very passionate about the manner in which men react to women cheating while they think it justifiable for men to cheat; I am always quick to call men out on this especially in a patriarchal system such as the one we have in my country, Nigeria.

Have you read Anna Karenina? Who was your favorite character.

Kemibon

BOOK REVIEW – THE SECRET LIVES OF BABA SEGI’S WIVES BY LOLA SHONEYIN

Everyone has secrets right? So what is the big deal about Baba Segi’s wives and their secrets?

You have to believe that for a book to come up with such a fascinating title then the secret must be a big deal. I cannot say if it was the title of the book that caught my attention or the fact that my younger sister kept dissolving into laughter as she read it (much to my chagrin as I hadn’t read it yet) but I was intrigued and I wanted to read it. When I finally got the book, I read with satisfaction and I felt the way I usually feel when I read Nigerian books by Nigerian authors; I felt all right. I felt heard, spoken for and relevant.

The story is short (201 pages) and ends quite surprisingly. By this I mean that I did not expect the end to come so quickly and so happily (for some of the characters anyway).

What is the secret that Baba Segi’s wives have kept away from Bolanle the 4th wife? What was the consequence of their actions? Why did the other wives dislike Bolanle so much? While these questions may sound like English comprehension questions, the answers will reveal the story in the book which the author, Lola Shoneyin crafted quite descriptively.

I enjoyed the humor (when Baba Segi has to give a sample of his semen) in the story as well as the delicate societal issues that were raised like sterility, rape, adultery and prostitution. Other themes like religion and poverty were also interwoven into the story.

I was initially confused when Bolanle (who appears to be the main character) married Baba Segi but it became clearer when the story revealed her reasons. Each wife has a unique character flaw which makes them relatable. You either love them or hate them but you can’t be indifferent.

There is tragedy in this book in the death of a child. I didn’t take it very well but the death came at the hands of her mother due to the mother’s jealousy (towards Bolanle, the new wife, of course). This is the stock that old stories on Tales by Moonlight are made of, that television series that aired on NTA in Nigeria in the ’80’s.

My best character is Baba Segi. This is one of the first books I have read where I actually stand in solidarity with a male character. He is just a proud, harmless, “woman-wrapper”*. He is a patriarch and he wears the badge proudly (when Baba Segi and Bolanle are at the hospital, he declares that he is her next of kin and not her mother) but beyond all of that he is just a man who takes care of his wives and children quite diligently. He is a man who desires peace in his home (seeking advice from Teacher) and plenty of children to show for his wealth.

There was something about Lola Shoneyin’s narration of this story that reminded me of Arundhati Roy’s style of writing in The God of Small Things. Or shall I say that there was something striking about her ability to describe things that are disgusting unabashedly; a certain way of describing body fluids like saliva, excreta and vomit. I had observed this same manner of writing in The God of Small Things as well.

I did wonder if the story would have a second part. There was a hint of lesbianism on the part of the first wife, Iya Segi. The story about her and the tomato seller was never completed nor explored. Perhaps it was not main story , a mere distraction.

The beauty of the story really lies in the nature of the tale including the exclamations that are natural to us in this part of the world, particularly the drama exhibited in the Yoruba culture.

At the end of the story the reader will find that the secret that Baba Segi’s wives keep away from him will shatter him. The story comes to a full circle when he makes a decision on how things will be in his household.

As small as the book is, the author is able to pack in several diverse characters. I thoroughly enjoyed the book but I expected a different ending. Oh well, what do I know? I am just a reader.

Have you read this book? What did you make of it? Leave your comments below.

*Philanderer

Kemibon

Second Class Citizen taught Abiola Bonuola some life lessons

I know it’s been a while, I’ve just been super busy with my blog beautifulthoughtz.com , school and work so please forgive me as my amazing sister, Kemi Bonuola has forgiven me for not contributing for so long. My office book club got me reading Second Class Citizen by Buchi Emecheta and I read it quite slowly, not because I didn’t like the story line or the book but it failed to get my already busy attention.

second class citizen

I read it for about 1 month plus. Yes, the (192 pages) book was read for almost two months but I concluded that Buchi taught me five life lessons through Adah, the main character:

  1. Marriage is overrated

Adah taught me that we make marriage too special in this part (Africa) of the world. In my opinion, marriage should be for complementary purposes. A human being can survive, live happily on earth without marriage. I do not understand the arguments of companionship or support because I feel these can be gotten without the institution of marriage especially when this school (marriage) becomes more of a burden than a place to grow.

Adah had to live with her great burden called marriage for a long time and I could only feel sorry for her. I am not married and I do not know what the good and bad ones are like but I feel if you really want it, it should be for the right reasons. Oh well, we’ll talk about that later…

  1. Education is important

It’s important to be in the know and be prepared to learn as much as possible. My boss at the office says the day we stop learning is the day we die which I believe is so true. Adah despite her burdens flew past deterrents and became what she wanted to be. Despite achieving her dreams, she continued to learn and that I must say is very inspiring to me.

  1. When in war, do not push your opponent to the wall

Adah achieved her major feats with patience and slow calculations. After reading ‘The Art of War by Sun Tzu’ (which by the way I haven’t reviewed yet) I must give her credit for her tactics. Buchi depicted her as a very humble, precise person.

  1. Laziness does not pay

There’s this song I learnt when I was quite little about a farmer. It says one who doesn’t work would steal and if not he would go hungry. So I can understand that Francis (Adah’s husband) was so lazy, he stole from his wife by collecting her money and giving her funds for her children and house keep alone despite the fact that she was the one who worked for the money.

  1. Support the support system

Adah taught me that the support system is even more important than we think especially if we do not support it. What I mean is, we should give of ourselves as much as we can to those who love and care for us so that we would always have the support we need when we are at our weakest.

Adah lost her only support system, her brother when she traveled to London. Adah’s story is Buchi’s story to me. Although the book was published in 1974, a period when there were few female Nigerian writers, it still settles subtly in a reader’s mind kudos to the story line and the soft reality of Adah’s plight.

Some of the themes in the book were racism, tribalism, love, marriage, religion and literature. Compared to other classic books I’ve read, it’s a 5/10 for me. I leave you with the fancy that someday society’s ills will no longer dictate the decisions we make in life.

Abiola Bonuola

I wasn’t committed to finishing Mr. Commitment.

Here’s the reluctant reviewer ( Kemi Bonuola) with a review of a book that casually walked past her uninterested eyes. I don’t know what is wrong with me I sincerely wanted to like Mr. Commitment by Mike Gayle but as much as I tried the book just didn’t do it for me. Perhaps it’s because the story was simple (in which case I would wonder if I prefer very complicated story lines) and predictable or was it the fact that the protagonist was a male character? (Would that mean that I do not enjoy books with male characters as the lead character?)

mr-commitment

 

Mr. Commitment is a story about a young man who has been dating a lady for four years but never thought of marrying her until she takes the bold but painful step to leave him. He feels things are fine the way they are and doesn’t want to spoil their relationship. Of course the lady feels otherwise and breaks off the relationship (even though he had initially proposed grudgingly and bought her a ring a move that she sees through because his fear of commitment is obvious). His realization that he really does need her and no one else is what brings the story to a predictable end.

As I struggled to get to the last page of this book (which I thought would be quite the “bloke lit”) I questioned my taste in books and concluded that I cannot like all the books I read. It was well written no doubt but there was no spice and nothing fascinating happened in there. It was a good story…basic if you ask me, good descriptions and a very well expected ending. The writer did try with a twist in the story here and there but on the whole it was just okay. I will be happy to give the book away to anyone who’s willing to take a dive.

 

Have you read this book? Ever heard of it? Liked it? Leave your comments below!

THE LION AND THE JEWEL

lion

Hallo Readers! I have been really lazy about reading lately although I just picked up L.M Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables but I am reading it ever so slowly. Luckily my sister came to my rescue with this review of The Lion and The Jewel by the Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka.  I can’t say if she gave any hints as to who the lion is and what jewel is Wole Soyinka even talking about? Can you figure it out?

Abiola Bonuola reviews:

The Lion and the Jewel by Wole Soyinka

The first time my sister, Kemi Bonuola read this book in JS 3 (equivalent to middle school in the U.S.A ), she obviously hated it. I know this because right at the beginning of the book, I came across the following scribbles:

“Question: What do you think about the book? I think it is a very boring book. The writer himself must be very dry and uninteresting to write such a boring local led comedy. When reading it, I did not laugh at all so I can’t guarantee the fact that it is a comedy. I will just call it a dry play written by a dry man, Soyinka.”      -Opinion by Kemi Bonuola ,13, JS 3 C.D.S.S

Now that she is much older, she read the book again and just oohed and aahed over the book. She urged me to read it too but I remember very clearly that I did not like the book as a child either but as the stubborn yet compliant lady that I am, I decided to force myself to read the book by suggesting the book to my colleagues for the office’s monthly fun and relaxation plan.

That said, this is what I felt about the Lion and the Jewel by the Sagacious, Wole Soyinka, on reading it for the second time:

Lakunle is a fool, no doubt about it.

He has no wisdom whatsoever in wooing a woman and/or marrying her in his village, Ilunjinle. He tries to prove that he is educated but his education lacks substance despite his supposed vast knowledge of the city.

That’s too much adjudication for one man, I know but… this book, the Lion and the Jewel is an exciting, wise, colorful and inspiring book. The Lion, Baroka and the Jewel, Sidi prove to know their turf in their town so does everyone else apart from Lakunle.

Anyway, there is use of wisdom in this book especially as Baroka begins to speak the words of persuasion to vain Sidi just so he can win his war. He says, “When the child is full of riddles, the mother has one water-pot the less” or “It is a bridge”. The longest-so they say in the whole country. When not a bridge, you’ll find a print of groundnuts stacked like pyramids, or palm trees, or cocoa trees, and farmers hacking pods and workmen felling trees and tying skinned logs into rafts. A thousand thousand letters by road, by rail, by air from one end of the world to another, and not one human head among them; not one head of beauty on the stamp?”

Sadiku went on errands to Sidi for Baroka so many times in his attempt to woo Sidi. I wonder how her mind really works. Is it that she was blind to Baroka’s ways or is it just tradition that has clouded her “brains”?

There is comedy so sensational especially when Lakunle agrees to mime the drunken photographer.

I still cannot believe this play was published in 1963 by Oxford University Press because the language is so simple, it could have been a 1990 play. Even in this book, there was a sense of the constant modernization of Africa which is still ongoing.

At the use of imagery, culture, song, dance and poetry, I was ultimately awed. The theme of encouraging the youth to embrace the good aspect of culture is unique. I couldn’t stop talking about this book with my colleague at work. I rate it 10/10.

lion ans the jewel

Abiola Bonuola

 

SHERRYL WOODS- HARBOR LIGHTS

Hello Readers!

I thought it would be nice to review a romance novel for a change. You know, something sweet and soft. I just finished reading “Harbor Lights” by Sherryl Woods and I learned a thing or two about relationships.

The story is a simple one actually. It spins around the story of a former army medic Kevin O’Brien whose wife Georgia, a medic in the army as well died before their Son, Davy turned one. Struggling to handle the grief of the loss and taking care of Davy, Kevin moved back home to Chesapeake Shores to lean on his support system-his three sisters, Abby, Bree and Jess, his brother Connor, his father Mick and his Grandma.

Kevin holed up in his room for most part of each day trying to deal with the grief. His family tried to encourage him to get a job (he left his job as a paramedic) to get  him out of the house. When Kevin finally took the advice, he ran into a new lady in town Shanna who had just left a bad marriage. Shanna has moved to town with a new business idea- a coffee and book store in Chesapeake. Kevin happens to walk by the very day she moves in and there the romance sparks.

Both with enough baggage to poo poo the idea of a relationship, the attraction they have for each other is unmistakable. Davy, Kevin’s son is quick to warm up to Shanna who finds herself creating space in her heart for the father of the darling boy. While trying to balance her past fears of falling for a man who has a son (which is reminiscent of her first marriage) Shanna finds herself falling in love with Kevin. She loves his big family despite their tendency to interfere. Growing up an only child herself, she finds great delight in their company and they in return try to convince Kevin to hook up with her.

The story twists when Shanna’s step-son Henry comes to live with her when his father falls ill. Kevin who never knew Shanna had a step-son is devastated and attempts to shut her out. His reaction is not far fetched however as one would find from the story that Kevin has trust issues from the experience of the women who had been in his life, his mum who walked out on them when they were younger(though he never knew the other side of the story) and his late wife who left him with an eleven month old son to serve her country. It takes the intervention of Kevin’s family for Shanna and Kevin to sort out their differences, communicate and finally embrace the love they had come to have for each other.

Harbor Lights was an easy read. The kind of book you would want to take to the beach or just relax with over a cup of tea and biscuits. I found a very insightful statement in the book which I would like to share here. It was stated when Mick proposed to his ex-wife again (You have to read the book to know how that happened!)

“Maybe that was the key to a successful marriage, knowing there’d be many a bump in the road, but believing that, in the end, love was worth it.”

I think love is always worth it, don’t you? I also think romance is worth it and Sherryl Woods serves up a decent plate in Harbor Lights!
Share your thoughts! Do you think romance is worth it?
Kemibon