Starting off the new month with a book that is really different to what I’ve been reading lately.
See me, see trouble
Ronke, Simi, Boo are three mixed-race friends living in London. They have the gift of two cultures, Nigerian and English, though they don’t all choose to see it that way.
Everyday racism has never held them back, but now in their thirties, they question their future. Ronke wants a husband (he must be Nigerian); Boo enjoys (correction: endures) stay-at-home motherhood; while Simi, full of fashion career dreams, rolls her eyes as her boss refers to her ‘urban vibe’ yet again.
When Isobel, a lethally glamorous friend from their past arrives in town, she is determined to fix their futures for them.
Cracks in their friendship begin to appear, and it is soon obvious Isobel is not sorting but wrecking. When she is driven to a terrible act, the women are forced to reckon with a crime in their past that may just have repeated itself.
A darkly comic and bitingly subversive take on love, race and family, Wahala will have you laughing, crying and gasping in horror. Boldly political about class, colorism and cooking, here is a truly inclusive tale that will speak to anyone who has ever cherished friendship, in all its forms.
Wahala is a really interesting book because I feel like it’s a mix of genres, it has the warmth and humour of a book about friendship, with some intriguing secrets that could be straight out of a mystery and then an underlying tension and unreliability that you could easily find in a psychological thriller. The great thing about it is that it is blended together so well, I couldn’t stop reading because I was so invested in the characters but I also loved how unpredictable it could be.
The story focuses on three British-Nigerian friends Simi, Boo, and Ronke and looks at how their relationship changes as Isobel, a friend from the past, ingrains herself into the group. One of the first things I loved about this group of friends is how different they all are but that they are still close, it definitely solidified the fact that even though they all have very different goals and paths that the friendship they formed has been a solid foundation and of course makes the stakes even higher when it starts to shake.
I loved Ronke, she is such a warm and open character, very down to earth and often puts others before herself, I think out of the three she is the person that most of us will relate to. Simi was an interesting character she is very pristine and likes everything a certain way and whilst she sometimes comes across as a bit aloof, she is very compartmentalised and doesn’t give a lot of herself away easily, there was a lot about her personality that I could relate to. Boo is perhaps a little more difficult to relate to because at the start of the story she is feeling very unhappy in her life which comes across in a very selfish way, this then gets exacerbated by Isobel, however, I still wanted things to work out for her.
Some other great characters round out this story, the partners and Sophia, Boo’s daughter, and Aunty K, who all highlight how much changes between the three when Isobel arrives on the scene. Isobel is a brilliantly scheming character, and whilst she is there to be the unlikeable character I couldn’t help but be intrigued about her motivations and wanted to see how things would end up for her.
This book is a great exploration of manipulation and the impact of toxicity on friendships and how that bleeds out into all aspects of life, at the same time as dealing with some of the struggles that women in their 30’s may face, added to that a look at the prejudices aimed at the character for being mixed race. It really is a well-rounded story, and whilst I felt like at some points the miscommunication between the three close friends was a little unrealistic, overall I was totally enthralled by their lives. I will say that I noticed a lot of people mentioning a twist at the end of the book as if it is set up to be a thriller and whilst the ending did come out of the blue, I think this book is written so you are supposed to see most of it coming, that’s what adds to the tension.
I will quickly add that I needed a lot of snacks around me whilst reading this book and after hearing about all the wonderful Nigerian food, and realising that I have yet to experience any, I was glad to see the inclusion of some of Ronke’s recipes at the end. Although I think I’ll maybe find some restaurants to experience it first because I know I could not do them justice.
Wahala is a brilliant debut and a book full of emotion, that will definitely stay with you.