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TIES THAT TETHER
September 29, 2020
Azere moved from Nigeria to Canada fifteen years ago after her father died. Before she left with her mother and younger sister, she promised her father she would never forget her Nigerian roots and would marry an Edo man. Over the years, she has kept her promise. She’s only dated Nigerian men, and she’s always been the good daughter who does what her mother tells her to do.
Until one night, she doesn’t. After meeting a good-looking Italian named Rafael in a bar, Azere surprises herself by sleeping with him only hours later. Their connection with each other is strong, but Azere knows the relationship can’t go any further since Rafael is white. She leaves early in the morning and tries to put the (fantastic) experience out of her mind. Flash forward a month, and Azere is shocked when her boss introduces her to the newest employee… her gorgeous former-beau, Rafael—and unfortunately for them both, their connection is still strong. Azere knows that pursuing Rafael in any meaningful way will disappoint and anger her mother, but Azere can’t seem to help herself. Now she’s in over her head and has to decide—will she choose her family or her relationship?
There’s a lot to love about this debut romance from Jane Igharo. It’s refreshing to see a Nigerian main character who is successful, kind, smart, well-off, loyal to her family, and great at her job. If I can be completely honest, it feels like a giant step forward to read a mainstream novel that doesn’t portray an African woman as poor, broken, and living in a sad dusty hut surrounded by malnourished children. Azere is a fully-formed character who is proud of her culture but who is never a caricature of that culture. It was easy for me to relate to her.
I also appreciate that a good portion of the novel (over half) focuses on what happens after Azere makes the choice to pursue her relationship with Rafael. Even though this is a love story with a happy ending, Azere has to go through hell to get there. She has to navigate some pretty tough real-world complications and consequences. It gave the story more depth and believability, and it made me more invested in the outcome.
My only minor gripe is that I absolutely hate how one character’s birth experience is depicted in the story. I don’t know why authors feel like they always, always, have to create drama around labor and delivery, but they do. It’s like every woman has to have crazy complications and near-death experiences. Guys, I’ve had three kids. Yes, it’s painful and intense, but it’s not that bad. Most of the time, it’s a NBD situation. Can we just cool it a bit with the theatrics?
Even so, Ties That Tether is a solid, unique book that deserves all the attention it’s getting. Definitely worth a read.
Thank you to Berkley and Net Galley for the ARC!