A Heart To Mend is a recently published debut romance by a Nigerian writer Myne Whitman based in the United States. I got to know about it through Twitter and decided to give it a try. It is not that I am so much into romance as I really shy away from it. However, friends do “accuse” me of being secretly romantic whenever I am asked to name my favorite films or songs.
The book is mostly set in modern day Lagos, Nigeria. I have to admit that I found the setting unfamiliar as I have a fondness for books set in the 70s and 80s as they tell my childhood stories, and also books set in the 90s as they elaborate on the huge changes that started at that time. After the usual family relationships and squabbles, as well as the story of a young person (in this case a girl) who leaves her little town to Lagos (or any other big city) for greener pastures, which is a very common narrative in Nigerian novels, the author went ahead to narrate something very alien to many African novels I have read.
It is the story of the business circle, manipulation, intrigues and lifestyle that makes it unique. Sometimes heavy in financial and stock market terms, it is one of those books that could easily be “criticized” as not being “authentically African”, whatever that means. A huge part of the novel takes you away from the settings and focuses you on the hearts and minds of the characters. Sold as a romance, the novel actually exposes the business districts of the city with all the local flavor-the Africa they never show you if you like.
This is not to belittle the romance aspects of the novel and justify my reading it. The love story was equally touching and intelligent. Some scenes in the novel can easily get you carried away. Even though a rich man/poor girl stories are not uncommon, the ingenuity used in overcoming personal and professional conflicts is indeed engaging.
Half way through the book, I couldn’t get it off my hands anymore despite the initial hesitation of reading a romance. Perhaps it is the realisation that neither love nor entrepreneurship exist in a vacuum that makes the novel perfect. The author puts it better “…while the main narrative of a romance novel may be the story of love between the main characters, there has to be much more.”
I would like to see more novels set around the business circle in Africa.
The author of the novel, Myne Whitman, is very interactive with her audience, and her blog is the Nigerian Blog of the Year!