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  • Writer's pictureNia Forrester

'Wahala' by Nikki May

There was so much that I loved about this book. First of all, the main characters, a trio of biracial women in the UK--sweet Ronke, image-conscious Simi and snarky Boo--have the kind of longstanding friendship that all women should have with at least one other woman. They recognize and wholly accept each others' flaws, and stand by each other come what may. Until Isobel. Isobel is someone Simi has known since she was a girl in Nigeria and they bonded back then in large part around their identity as biracial girls who got treated differently--sometimes better, sometimes worse--than their fully Nigerian contemporaries. And now, in London, Simi has bonded with Ronke and Boo for similar reasons.

I loved that the author took the time to situate each of the women differently in relation to their racial identity. Boo, married to a Frenchman identifies not at all with her Nigerian side and its culture. She can't imagine herself with a Black, let alone Nigerian man. Ronke cannot imagine a mate who is not Nigerian, but easily navigates between Nigerian and British culture. And Simi is somewhere in between. She appreciates but doesn't immerse herself in her Nigerian identity and plays up, when it is to her advantage, the idea of being half this, and half that.

Isobel, the newcomer to their group is a cypher. She toggles easily back and forth not only where her race is concerned, but in every way, presenting herself as whatever she needs to be, to ingratiate herself to the women. Her motives are murky, but only Ronke detects almost immediately that they may not be pure. The wahala (trouble, complication, fracas) that ensues almost as soon as Isobel becomes part of their group will be more far-reaching that even the astute Ronke could have imagined.

The process that leads to the gradual erosion of the bonds between Ronke, Simi and Boo is a fascinating read, kind of like a slow motion reel of a car crash, and the question as the book draws to a close, is whether their friendship (and they themselves) will survive. I don't want to say more, because it will spoil it for you, but I urge folks who may feel out of their depth by the location and ethnic specificity of the book to read it anyway. Trust me. At its core, it's a darn good women's fiction novel with a suspenseful element, and very relatable message about women's friendships--the ones you keep and the ones you're better off leaving behind.

Also, thank you, #NetGalley!

My rating: ⭑⭑⭑⭑

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