Ronke, Simi, Boo are three mixed-race friends living in London.
They have the gift of two cultures, Nigerian and English.
Not all of them choose to see it that way.
Everyday racism has never held them back, but now in their thirties, they question their future. Ronke wants a husband (he must be Nigerian); Boo enjoys (correction: endures) stay-at-home motherhood; while Simi, full of fashion career dreams, rolls her eyes as her boss refers to her urban vibe yet again.
When Isobel, a lethally glamorous friend from their past arrives in town, she is determined to fix their futures for them.
Cracks in their friendship begin to appear, and it is soon obvious Isobel is not sorting but wrecking. When she is driven to a terrible act, the women are forced to reckon with a crime in their past that may just have repeated itself.
*This ARC was sent to me by Penguin Doubleday UK as part of a blog tour, please read our disclaimer policy for more information*
Pitched as Sex and the City with a killer edge for fans of Queenie and My Sister the Serial Killer, Nikki May has written a really fast-paced, drama-filled debut novel. This has been on my most anticipated list from last year and I binge-read it in a day. The tension. The lies. The diversity.
All the ingredients for a novel that will keep you hooked throughout.
Is there a word for an evil woman like her? What would I even do if I had an Isobel in my life?
Pray to the heavens that God removes her immediately.
Nikki May wrote her very well. You don’t exactly warm to her and you’re left wondering when she’ll strike throughout the entire novel.
And when she does…you’ll be sat there thinking why did these women let her into their life.
Although this is without a doubt an intense read, it was really interesting to see how these women embraced their mixed culture. The main protagonists, Boo (Bukola), Simi and Ronke, each had their own relationship with their Nigerian side.
One flat out hates acknowledging it, the other adores it and does everything to remind herself of Nigeria and the other seems to be somewhere in the middle.
All three women are united by this feeling of division inside them, whether they’re ready to acknowledge it or not. Nikki May draws on a sense of kinship within this friendship that delves into deeper issues of colourism, imposter syndrome and much more.
All three characters, at some point in the novel, have a moment where they feel divided. Moreover, they tend to lean into this feeling of not belonging anywhere because they come from two different places. But yet, it’s this feeling that brings them together.
However, it’s important to recognise that it’s the difference in cultures combined with ignorance and racism that led to the division. All three characters experienced some sort of micro-aggression growing up with their white families and the ripple effects are displayed in their attitudes towards their Black culture and even how they go on to live their lives.
“One day she’d stand out – be picked on and poked at. The next she’d be wallpaper – overlooked and ignored”
All three women harbour internalised prejudices about their culture.
Nikki May starts a conversation in which through these three characters we see how it plays into their livelihood, from how they dress to their love life.
I just want to make this clear that this book is NOT a romcom or anything like that. It’s messy. It’s intense. It’s toxic. It’s a real in-depth, hard-hitting novel that explores marital issues, failing relationships, familial problems and so much more.
As all three women are of mixed heritage, Nikki May delves deep into Nigerian culture and it was utterly brilliant. From the food to the discussions depicting life in Lagos…there’s even recipes for Nigerian Jollof, Moin-moin and Chicken Stew at the back and honestly, all the food sounded amazing.
I was ready to try Ronke’s jollof from the very first time it was mentioned.
Nikki May also touches on colourism and racism. But, I did find them a little uncomfortable at times.
It was the casualness of these comments that would put me on edge. I guess, it’s unavoidable when you have three protagonists of mixed heritage and as I mentioned before, their internalised prejudices were integral to the decisions they made in life. I just wasn’t entirely sure how I felt about them.
However, arguably, this wasn’t a book on colourism and choosing not to focus on them too much was Nikki May addressing that there are many layers to these characters.
From touching our hair inappropriately to the comments about being ‘exotic’… Nikki May explores just how frustrating it can be to be constantly excluded through small comments like these. Arguably, a small action but one that leaves Black people, in general, feeling like an outsider just because of their culture.
Every single character in this book was flawed. Incredibly flawed. But it did make for an interesting plot.
What I will say is justice for Ronke. She deserved SO much better.
So, if you’re looking for a novel that will keep you hooked and make you want to keep reading…this is it. It’s without a doubt a book you can read in one sitting. I’ll be keeping an eye out for the BBC television series!
I’m in the middle of reading and it now and I definitely agree about the uncomfortable comments on racism and colourism..they are too quickly brushed under the carpet and I would’ve preferred May to delve into a bit more
Same. I think it just made it even more uncomfortable by brushing over them. But I do feel like she chose not to get into them as she didn’t want it to be the main focus of the plot
Liz Dexter says
I reviewed this today and have linked to your review in my post as I try to include a variety of reactions when I write about books set outside my own lived experience. The point about the microaggressions/racism you make is interesting; a lot of Black bloggers I read talking about “The Other Black Girl” seemed to be saying that including so much about that made it seem like it was an instructional read for White readers rather than somewhere for Black readers to see themselves reflected. I’m wondering if I’ll see that said about this one, as it seemed to pander less to non-Nigerian readers (as it should – I’m perfectly capable of looking things up that I don’t immediately understand). I really enjoyed it and loved the flawed characters; I hope I’ve done it justice in my review! https://librofulltime.wordpress.com/2022/01/24/book-review-nikki-may-wahala/
I think the micro aggression/racism was the only thing that put me on edge. Alongside Boo’s ignorance, other than that the book was quick read. I’m not sure if I’d compare it to The Other Black Girl in that sense but I completely understand what you mean! I’ll definitely check out your review!