Tomi Obaro | Nigeria
I have two friends from Trinidad, Andrea and Jackie, who I’ve known since we were five. We lost touch during our teenage years and reconnected in our 30s and have been regularly in touch ever since. It’s grown into the type of friendship where we share laughs, our pet peeves, craziness with kids and family, personal struggles, and celebrate triumphs. I can count on these two women when I need guidance and support. Although we’re close, I haven’t physically seen Andrea in over 30 years and Jackie I recently saw in 2019, but prior to that it was at least 20 years since I’d physically seen her. So, this book felt very personal to me.
The main characters in Tomi Obaro’s debut novel, Enitan, Funmi and Zainab, have this kind of friendship dynamic. One that transcends time and place and once they gather, they reminiscence and laugh and reflect. Dele Weds Destiny see these three friends reunite for the wedding of Funmi’s daughter Destiny, but the focus of the book is on the enduring and at times painful friendship of these women. The wedding serves as the backdrop to reminiscence on each woman’s life and to learn how they grew up together, then apart, through their individual challenges and choices.
The book is structured first in the present when Enitan and her daughter Remi travel from New York to Nigeria for the wedding, and Zainab is traveling from Kaduna to Lagos to Fumni’s estate. The second section takes the reader into the past describing how they met up to the point where they go their separate ways as young adults. The last section comes back to the present to the wedding.
Obaro does an exceptional job with the transitions between past and present, and her writing is smooth, at times reflective, and sophisticated. Her characters are multi-layered and complex and she authentically captures the growing pains that female friends encounter when coming of age. She infuses the political turmoil that bubbled over onto university campuses in Nigeria during the 1980s and there exists in her characters an organic strengthening and breakdown of the friendship throughout their university days.
As in real life, the choices we make affect the trajectory of our lives and our backgrounds influence the relationships we have with our spouses and children. Obaro addresses these dynamics with a sincerity and creative authority that is impressive and masterful, capturing insecurities, inhibitions, and realizations that women in their 50s eventually experience.
Obaro has proven in this novel that she has the mettle to churn out thought-provoking and powerful narratives that capture the substance of relationships. She’s an author I plan to keep a close eye on in the future.