Nigerians and indeed Africans are not known for romance writing. The reason can be attributed to the sense of morality (real or apparent) that seeks to relegate issues of love to the secrecy of bedrooms and treats sex as something to be talked about only in hushed tones like it were some mysterious sacred ritual. We generally carry on like we don’t do sex yet we have HIV, or we don’t fall in love yet we have marriages.
Myne Whitman’s book, A Heart to Mend, makes a bold statement to the contrary. It shows that we do not only fall in love and marry for love, we also use love to conquer a wide range of situations that could have ordinarily been a bit difficult to shoulder alone.
Before A Heart to Mend, the closest the Nigerian Literary scene has felt of emotional writings were from the Hints series and a wide range of other soft sale publications which were deficient in both craft and quality, both deficiencies that have contributed through a negative feedback to the dearth and ‘distaste’ for romance writings in Nigeria.
A Heart to Mend comes however as a fresh breath of air. It chronicles the journey of Gladys Eborah, a young female Nigerian graduate from Enugu in South Eastern Nigeria to the commercial city of Lagos first to find a job and then- in the process- love and ultimately marriage. In the typical romance stories style, this journey is not rosy, but is filled with so much turbulence which combines to raise the suspense and provide the reader a deeper satisfaction for the also typical ‘happy ever after’ ending.
Gladys doesn’t share the spotlight alone however. Employing a double barreled lead character description approach, the author also brings the reader into the life and experiences of Edward Bestman, the young unmarried head of a business empire. Edward and Gladys meet in the very first chapter of the book but it takes a lot longer for Edward to overcome his mistrust for people (a psychological burden acquired following childhood experiences of betrayal) and profess his love…one which he started feeling on that very first day, to Gladys.
For Nigerian readers, there is plenty to like In the book. It is rich with very familiar words, places and things which they can easily relate with. We have for example the popular Peace Mass Transit which every Enugu resident knows. We have Zennon oil, Terra Kulture, Tuface, Sound Sultan, Securities and Exchange Commission etc. The language is simple but the description languid in some instances. It goes on and on sluggishly, seemingly not in a hurry to get to a climax.
For people who find it difficult to read books without conversations, A Heart to Mend presents itself as a good New year gift but then some of the conversation are drab, and such that does not necessarily add any extra value to the main story.
A novice in the complex workings of the Stock Exchange and the various sharp practices that we often read of in the papers such as ‘share buy back’ might find this book a worthy and handy learning guide. Exhibiting a good knowledge of the workings of the Stock Market, the author engages the reader in those business languages and mention terms and concepts only those well schooled in that field would understand. I admire however how Whitman introduces these concepts in conversations which help the reader appreciate what is being said rather than foisting it down the readers in some kind of tutorial essay format.
The absurdities and sharp practices that exist in our business climes in Nigeria are well captured. Mr. Odutose has developed a dubious way of helping companies get richer illegally. He is persistent in selling his idea even when Edward Bestman is adamant. Like in most things, Odutose finally finds a listening ear in Chief Okrika who ironically sets out to use the idea against Edward Bestman. It is uplifting to note however that Edward Bestmans persistent refusal to buy into Odutose’s dubious plan shows that we still have credible and respectable Nigerian Business Men and women, a badly needed reminder especially in these times when Nigeria seems popular globally for only the wrong reasons.
There are a couple of other downs for the book. The reasons why Aunt Isioma abandoned her relatives for so long a time does not sound convincing, neither did the author do very well in explaining why Chief Okrika and wife should show up suddenly after so many years and begin to witch-hunt Edward Bestman. Glady’s initial reactions to Aunt Isioma which were intended to portray her existing annoyance for Aunt Isioma’s unexplained wrong treatment of her relatives seemed quite childish. It also didn’t seem real that Aunt Isioma given her wealth and connection would leave Gladys (a first time visitor to Lagos) all to her self in her job hunt though she had kindly provided her the service of a car and a driver. In reality such an Aunt (especially one portrayed to be eager to help) would have done much more. But then, this is fiction and I guess the author has the right to the soul of her story.
A Heart to Mend which is the authors first offering sure comes with many more pluses than minuses and gives an indication that the author is one to be watched for even richer outings in the near future. Nigerian readers for example can now satisfy their yearning for well written, homegrown romance stories while the foreign readers can treat themselves to a different kind of romance; that made in the highly boisterous commercial city of Lagos, Nigeria.
Available for purchase
1. AuthorHouse: http://www.authorhouse.com/Bookstore/ItemDetail.aspx?bookid=67912
2. January 2010; Amazon: http://amazon.com
3. February 2010; Nigeria: See details at http://mynewhitmanwrites.com