New debut novel Wahala by Nikki May I was captivated by her striking skin design and network buzz. A book that looks good and reads well is a good catch. I was fascinated by the drama of the thirty-five British British women living in London.
Ronke, Boo and Simi became close friends in college, associated with the heritage of their mixed race (white mothers, Nigerian fathers). They’ve been through each other’s support systems through thick and thin: dirty boyfriends, medical school, leaving college, finding love, and parents. Ronke is a dentist. She loves her Nigerian heritage, stays very close to her aunt, misses her father, reunites with Nigerian men and dreams of marriage and happiness at home. But she can’t get to know her boyfriend Kayode and the group plans — because of the commitment. Boo and Simi don’t like Kayode, even though Ronke is blind to his mistakes. The book basically lives the life of Ronke’s dreams. She is happily (or not) married to a Frenchman, Didier, and Sophia (who loves Aunt Ronke) has a beautiful child and does a great job. Simi has a distant relationship with Martin. She struggles with secrets at work and at home with the imposition syndrome — she’s taking the pill while Martin thinks they’re trying on the baby. When all three are in good company but there are four, there is wahala (for Yoruba problems).
The rich girl Wahala Isobel, Simi’s childhood friend, begins when she infiltrates a nearby group. It comes with blond fabrics, jokes, big money, a side-by-side boob look at lunch, crazy shopping, eye-catching outfits, and unbridled energy. As the group of girls begins to show cracks, she becomes a friend, either by sending messages to Boo promoting her secret life with her boss, or by listening to Simi’s confessions. In the face of Isobel, a strong seventeen-year friendship is broken. It attracts gossip, scandal and destruction. Boo is now flipping through shopping cards and Ronke is suspected of being jealous of his perfect family. The beautiful Ronke wonders if his friends are as supportive as they are. Simi is confused between taking on a new job and the transparency of her relationship. Wahala she takes us through these women in great detail — Ronke takes her as an assistant in her dental practice, puts her in Simi’s workplace in a ‘city’ atmosphere for tokenism, likes Boo’s boss, and even calls her an exotic afro.
I loved it Wahala Western audiences for not having what it takes to be a POC book. There’s no need to learn morals, no trauma lessons that make the lives of non-white characters enjoyable for the white audience, and it doesn’t take on one-dimensional poverty. Including women Wahala they are ambitious and economically stable. They live their lives to the fullest and turn their backs on each other. They are driven, they make bad decisions and they fight hard. But the novel is not without stereotypes. White men, Martin and Didier, are sympathetic and compassionate to their wives, and cunning, unreliable Nigerian men often abandon their families. The ending was too sudden, but he shook me from my comfortable chair with ‘What?’ shouting. The novel also fell short in a familiar way, where you end up wondering why the “secret” —the plot that goes on — was kept secret? Many issues such as internalized racism were addressed, but were not studied in depth. Although I loved the three girls, Isobel remains a caricature of the evil energy for the advancement of the argument, and nothing else. Also, I would love to see more characters than push some characters to a quick end.
But the truth is, at the end of the reading, I was very well entertained by the girl group. I loved lively conversations, women’s issues (both domestic and professional), confusing situations, cooking sessions, hairdressing conversations … everything. You’ll feel like you’ve been friends with the wonderful women in the novel for a long time. Wahala it’s a juicy novel that makes you feel as invested as your favorite soap opera. A must-read on the beach for the summer of 2022.
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