Are you looking to immerse yourself in a dramatic and unconventional lovers’ tale – one that though set in contemporary times, includes themes that can be found in Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra and Romeo and Juliet? If so, then ‘Odufa’ is for you.
When Anthony Mukoro discovers he cannot father a child, his whole world comes crashing.
In the arms of a new crush, Odufa, a beautiful girl with a past, he finds the strength to face his fears and live again despite the whirlwind that threatens to devour the union. But nothing is as it seems as they plunge into the bowels of this serpentine romance which alters their lives forever.
‘Odufa’ (published in Nigeria by Masobe Books) tells the heart-wrenching, tragic love story between Anthony and Odufa, and explores the lengths to which people are willing to go to be with (or without) someone. ‘Odufa’ also examines the impacts that superimposed societal structures like patriarchy, and domestic violence can have on relationships.
While reading this book, the level of toxicity and interdependency between the lovers – Anthony and Odufa – at times felt like it was too much, but it also made me think about real life and how it is often also too much. Anthony is a deeply flawed character, whom I fiercely disliked but also pitied at the same time. He is the kind of man I pray my future daughter will never encounter. He is violent, insecure, and unstable. His doubts in his own ‘manhood’ and his ruthless use of Odufa’s presence and body for his own needs are but a few of the traits that underline his toxicity and the state of the society within which he exists. On a number of occasions, I wanted to throw the book across the room, and I cursed my inability to transport myself into the book and give Anthony a good piece of my mind, but thankfully, I felt compelled to keep reading. On the flipside, there were times when I felt a flash of empathy for him, especially during Odufa’s more sinister moments.
Speaking of Odufa, she herself is a flawed and problematic character. Like Anthony, she too can be violent and doesn’t seem to have herself under control in some instances. She can be manipulative and deeply dislikable, but, for some reason, I had much more empathy for her than for Anthony. Could this be a personal bias? I’ll let you be the judge of that.
In terms of style, the writing in Odufa is literary and descriptive. It is loosened up by a good amount of dialogue and some faster paced, less dense passages throughout. My main gripes with the style were found in some of the descriptions of Odufa and her female body. At times, it felt voyeuristic but it also reflected Anthony’s character and attitude towards Odufa in particular, and women more generally, so while it irked me, I believe that it made the narrative all the more realistic.
The book describes the kind of relationship between a man and a woman that I’d not wish on anyone, but that still exists. What Othuke Ominiabohs managed to do is to show a different, more sinister side to love and romantic relationships that is deeply uncomfortable and difficult to acknowledge. ‘Odufa’ forces us to question our own attitudes towards love, relationships and our partners, it exposes our own flaws and doesn’t allow us to glance past them.
Aside from this, ‘Odufa’ also seamlessly weaves political, social, cultural and historical context and commentary into the backdrop of the plot. We get to know Nigerian towns like Kano and Aviara a bit more intimately, and Othuke does not shy away from directly addressing existing issues around stereotypes and cultural clashes between the peoples of the North and the South of Nigeria.
Overall, this is a different kind of lovers’ tale, that will have you love and hate, judge and forgive, shout at and cry for the characters at different points and across different pages of this literary rollercoaster.