Review by Joseph Omotayo

'A Heart to Mend' by MYNE WHITMAN

You will be mistaken if you think Myne Whitman's literary birthing, A Heart to Mend, is among the charade of romantic novels that could always be predicted with the end of '... and they live happy ever after'. The unusual writing confidence that exudes in this romantic novel is observed as the different plots in it are independent of their messages built on different themes and conflicts. The inspiring aspect of the novel is how it dances around themes that only tilt to the main message of a stormy romantic encounter as seen in the lives and times of the two major characters, Edward and Gladys.

As unfamiliar as the Nigerian literary scene is with the genre of Romance that Myne Whitman seems to walk shoulder high in, the author still undoubtedly tailors her messages through the prism of versatile writing skill. With this, the reader is tethered to the curiosity to know what the outcome of the climax will be and how each character that is connected with the conflict survives what definitely will become the aftermath.

Questions will battle for answers to know: Where Aunty Isioma's sudden disposition of favour towards her niece, Gladys, will lead to? Will Gladys ever give in to the pressure of Edward's pre-marital sexual advances? How will Edward be able to weather through the take-over crisis in Bestman Company without depleting the harmony in his relationship with Gladys? What is the purpose of Edward's former foster parents, Mr and Mrs Okrika, for resurfacing to open the can of worms that has been long covered? Why is Gladys tarred with the same brush as the detractors of Bestman Company?



The story is foremost a written-capture of the life, struggle and the love affairs of Edward and Gladys, which choose no other path than to ride unsteadily on the storms that characterise their lives. This is not just a piece that buys room for the vapidity of stilted narration that only awkwardly centres on romance; it is a literature that reflects our fears and desires through the different traits and voices of the characters.

MARKS AND GASHES:

It is a deskilling effort when Myne Whitman cluttered the book with conversations that are purely of the terminologies used in the Stock Exchange sector. Though it shows a glaring in-depth knowledge the author has about the activities of the sector, it rather makes the reader feel bored and lumbered with just flipping the pages till when it gets to where stories that are importantly knotted to the main message that concerns the main characters are. However, this situation is later rescued by the strong suspense that holds the heart of the reader bound. The effectiveness of the technique, the strong suspense, is in how it is used at the brink between the conflict and the climax of the story.

What one should always look out for in a book is not only the knowledge of what will become of the characters, but when a writer goes at some extra lengths at educating the reader of things, places and cultures which the reader wouldn't have assessed without the book, then, the book becomes more endearing as a priceless jewel. The broad-ranging and cosmopolitan intelligence of Myne Whitman makes her to breeze through the descriptions of places, especially the places and activities that blatantly depict Lagos in the book.

SETTINGS:

The book is set between two significant eras in Nigeria history – the time when socio-economic activities of her populace are muddled up before the advent of technology and the season when Nigeria seems to be taking the world of intercontinental business by storm with the cutting edge technology that makes information gathering easier. Aunty Isioma's marital woes and the strain it put in the relationship that exists between her and her brother's family wouldn't have been if there had been a mobile technology that guarantees easy communication. She indeed confesses to this situation in the revealing discourse between her and her niece, Gladys:

"I tried all I could to make him (Aunty Isioma's husband) change his mind, but he was unwavering on the issue. I had to choose between him and the children and your family. There was nothing I could do even if I wanted to. I had no money I could have sent to your family or any way to send it. It was a very tense period; he monitored and even restricted my movements and calls. Of course there was no email or mobile phones in the eighties."

Gladys is able to transport the message of her new job to her mother in Enugu all the way from Lagos on the spur of the moment when she receives the letter of her appointment from Zenon Oil.

"Gladys moved between the sentry palms into the dining room, taking her mobile phone from her jeans pocket at the same time and punching in her mother's number.
"Mama, it is me, good evening."
"E'hem, how are you?"...
"I got the job Mama."

The book is geographically set between Nigeria, London, New York and Barbados. The topographic descriptions of these places are just awesome. The ambience Skyline view of Victoria Island in Lagos, the ferry ride at the upper deck in Manhattan in New York, the touristy experience of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island are just aptly detailed.

THEMES:

Deception and Comeuppance: 'Where there is muck there is brass' is the philosophy of Mr Odusote, the expert broker, who sees nothing wrong in enriching himself on the ignorance of others. He is always badgering Edward, intercepting him at every occasion, sending mails back and forth and starting up unscheduled meetings, just on the need to use the clout Bestman Group has as a listing company to carry out his (Mr Odusote) illegal reaping of the market when the fruit is ripe. He is punished in his own tricks after his plan with Chief Okrika to take over the management of Bestman Group from Edward falls through, breaking into rubbles of regret and financial loss. Mr Okrika is also paid in his vices when he eats a humble pie as the recording of the secret and expository conversation he had with Gladys, which proofs that he is the one behind the take-over crisis, is played to him. Chief Okrika is tricked by the informant, Edward's secretary, who is the conduit that readily leaks the in-house activities of Bestman Group to Mr Okrika. Mrs Okrika's repercussion catches up with her when Chief Okirika knows the truth behind her disgust for Edward.

Chauvinism and Frailty: Aunty Isioma's life in marriage is a perfect depiction of male chauvinism and female-marital frailty. Her awful story with her husband lucidly shows that the worst slavery that has ever happened to humanity is the one that occurs silently between weak and strong partners in various homes. Aunty Isioma is restricted by her husband not to step a foot near her brother, Gladys' father, when he was sick. Aunty Isioma's husband makes an effort as far as cutting his wife off her friends, monitoring her calls, and deceiving their children after her brother later dies that all what is left of what represent their mother's family are gone. Two options is given to her; 'it's either she chooses to stay with the children and the subsisting marriage or break up and stay with her brother'. She only regains her freedom after her husband passes on. Hers is the deep portrayal of the male superiority complex that gravely rocks homes.

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*****I must confess that my belief of reading a purely ubiquitous Love Story in this book was totally proved to be a misconception after the reading. The book is an array of events that could easily happen to Me and You. Please, amidst your books on the shelves and reading desks, meld A Heart to Mend with them, so that whenever anybody asks if you have got A Heart to Mend, you would answer truthfully.