When I heard that my N. Maria Kwami (my mother's bestie) had published a novel in the early part of fall 2014, I was filled with anticipation. I received a review from my mother, who gushed about the book, further whetting my literary appetite. When I arrived home in Norway after study abroad, one of the first things I did (after getting copious amounts of sleep, hugs from my parents/sister, and my papa and mama's cooking) was to disappear into the literary mind of N. Maria Kwami. And boy, oh boy, was it good!
Secrets of The Bending Grove introduces the reader to guarded and lovable protagonist Shika Amenyo who is burdened with the weight of several undisclosed and unaddressed issues when her cousin-brother Sefa returns from a professional sojourn in Europe saddled with a mystery illness that is draining the life from his frail body. Sefa enlists Shika's help to tie up loose ends. Through this process, their friends and family, from Sefa's committed mother, Tassie and to Shika's best friends Miyo and Sweetie. is forced to deal with some secrets they have kept under wraps, to let the pain and trauma of those secrets float to the surface, and to deal with them once and for all.
I don't want to give any aspects of the plot away, because I want you all to go and purchase and read this page-turner. However, I will give some insight into my visceral responses to this novel. When I read Secrets of The Bending Grove, I was at that point in return culture-shock of feeling Ghana-sick, and replaying a montage of memories in my mind. N. Maria Kwami creates a most vivid and lush imagery of Ghana, and of Ghanaian culture. I could see the colours and warm sights she described, smell the scents that make up the unique olfactory personality of Ghana's urban spaces, taste the flavours of Ghanaian cuisine, as they intersected with moments of friendship, of romance, of loss and pain. The characters are authentic, multifaceted, flawed, and oh-so relatable. Sefa's integrity, fierce loyalty to Shika and Tassie, and the pure tragedy of his life. Shika's odd combination of self-assuredness and insecurity, her ease with providing help, love, support, her discomfort with receiving it, and her ability to grow. You'll feel a tug of melancholy all the way through this novel, and an ache of pain as you close the book upon reaching the end, wishing you could read it all over again, with fresh eyes and a fresh mind.
The book is available on Amazon. Buy a copy for your mama, buy a copy for your daddy, buy a copy for great aunt's cousin. You won't regret it!