By Mazi Fred Chiagozie Nwonwu
Reading the first chapters of Myne Whitman’s second novel “A Love Rekindled” was tedious for me. And for the life of me, I couldn’t fathom why. Myne’s sentences were beautiful in their simplicity and the characters few enough for me to remember without flipping pages to catch my bearing. The back-stories that appeared in every other chapter were rendered with a masterly that I envied from the first chapter to the last. No information dumping that many find difficult especially through flashbacks or back stories. The theme, though clichéd, did not grate on my nerves. The writing was subtle; the delivery was not preachy at all.
So why did I struggle with it?
Now, after finishing the book and finding the act rewarding, I find I can’t confidently say this or that was why the reading dragged initially, other than the fact that I unconsciously looked down on the genre. Don’t get me wrong, I have read romance in the past and one of my best books (Philip Jose Farmer’s “Dare”) is a romance novel, a science fiction novel, with all the complexities that only that genre can wield. However, after graduation from Mills & Boon to Hadley Chase and from there to the worlds of fantasy and Science fiction, I tend to look down on books that carry the tag “romance” and written with love as the primary theme. Like I said, this feeling is subconscious and I could only give it voice after finishing this book, liking it, and questioning why I wasn’t eager to devour it in the first place.
Now, the issue I had with the book did not trouble my wife, who read it, loved it and can’t stop bugging me for more books like that—not my library of science fiction, fantasy, horror and literary fictions. She could not understand why I couldn’t, like her, finish the book in two days and why I didn’t have a smile on my face while reading it. I understood what she meant when the smiles came and I found myself rooting for the lovers and praying they find a way to mend fences. Then I began to rue what I would have missed by not reading the book: straight to the point stories with the potential for a mass following.
“A Love Rekindled” is a story of love, lost love, and the opposition that intertribal relationships have to contend with in contemporary Nigeria, an opposition that I am glad is gradually fading out. Efe and Kevwe, the protagonists, met while they were students of the University of Benin, fell in love and planned to get married after Efe’s graduation. Efe is Itsekiri and Kevwe is Urhobo, tribes that for years have competed for influence in Warri, a city they both claimed. The Urhobo and Itsekiri friction had let to bloodletting in the past and the conflict dogged the path of the lovers.
Efe and Kevwe believed the strength of their love and the fact that they both have enlightened parents would shield them from any petty tribalism, but they reckoned without Kevwe’s father. Chief Mukoro, to keep them apart, planted the seed of distrust and the lovers parted believing that one betrayed the other.
Rather Nollywoodesque, you might think, but while the story contains elements of Nollywood—fineboy-from-America-meet-wellbred-fine-girl-sparks-fly-and-bad-belly-people-turn-up-but-they-overcome-to-live-happily-ever-after—Myne does have one or two lessons to teach the Nollywood people. 1, That their audiences are not semi-literate housewives who swallow hook-line-and-sinker every half –baked story line they are served. 2, And that a story can be told without the elite worship or overt materialism that mark many of their offerings. A Love Rekindled, like A Heart to Mend before it represent the path that a majority of Nollywood love story producers need to take, into the world of well researched, intelligent and beautifully told stories that does not leave you scratching your head at the end wondering how you just managed to waste two hours of your life.
This not to say that those haba na moments that leaves you wondering if this is the Nigeria you know or another were lacking:
“I was trapped unconscious inside the car with my dead companion till eyewitnesses brought the police, the road safety officials and the fire brigade who finally cut me out of the wreck.” Page 217
The book’s treatment of sex also left much to be desired. Though better than what many are selling as sex scenes in our literature these days, it was unwieldy, like a core, like it didn’t come from within, lacking the poetry that takes you into the scene and gifts you sensuality. As examples such as the one below shows, it just did not cut it.
“When he slid down her torso, the air conditioner chilled her skin, making her feel vulnerable. She pulled him up, and their lips meshed again. She moved away after a while, but only to run her fingers over the scars on his face. She caressed them like a prayer, kissing the pulse throbbing along his jaw.” Page 130
I found a lot was on point in Love Rekindled. One of these is the sub theme of telepathic connection between identical twins. I like that it is subtle, because anything more would have moved the book away from it path. A theme worth exploring I say. Another thing I liked was the editing. With our fast growing publishing industry desperately in need of good editors, Myne’s editor should be sought out and paid well to do just one thing, edit books. This is not to say that A Love Rekindled is a perfect book…not sure there is any.
In all, the novel was for me a great read, the kind you wrap beautifully and gift to the woman you love.
A love Rekindled is available on Amazon.