Tomi Obaro lives in New York and works, amongst other things, as a journalist for Buzzfeed. Her debut novel Dele Weds Destiny appealed to me with its beautiful, flashy cover and the prospect of a story about girlfriends. The climax of the book is Destiny’s ostentatious wedding in Lagos, which adds a certain tension to the book as it is never quite clear whether Destiny really wants to get married. But it is this event that brings her mother, Funmi, and her best friends from university, Enitan and Zainab, back together and their relationship is what the book is really about.
Funmi, Enitan and Zainab met in the 1980s while studying in Kaduna in northern Nigeria. The three women, still young at the time, somewhat stereotypically represent the sex-positive self-confident woman (Funmi), the gentle inconspicuous woman whom everyone describes as ugly – i.e. not conforming to normative beautiful ideals – (Enitan) and the well-behaved, rather conservative romantic (Zainab). Even though the text often relates how inseparable the friends are, it is barely shown why this is actually the case. The women are often rough or even unfriendly with each other. They keep secrets from each other and Funmi at first seems more interested in Zainab’s boyfriend than in Zainab herself. But in dramatic moments they are there for each other, as when one has an accident, another needs help convincing her father to accept her spontaneous engagement, and the third needs support through an illegal abortion. These events seem to weld them together. The abortion scene, which despite its illegality is described as matter-of-factly as it is detailed, is, oddly, what I liked best about the book. It gives the otherwise relatively superficial book a minor political note in emphasizing a woman’s right to self-determination, and demonstrating how women can support each other in this.
The friends then hardly see each other for thirty years. But when they come together for Destiny’s wedding, they don’t seem to have changed at all. In the present, there are complicated marriages, difficult mother-daughter relationships, little upsets here and there, but not much that captivates, inspires or sticks in the memory. On a very hot beach day, Dele Weds Destiny, with its simple prose and predictable characters, was nevertheless very welcome company.
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