After the tragic loss of her husband years ago, artist Feyi is finally ready to move forward and dip her toes into the dating scene. Enter Nasir, a nice guy who doesn’t push her to move too quickly. When he gets her a gallery show opportunity on the island where he grew up, Feyi and Nasir head to the island and stay at his family home. When she gets there, Feyi feels an instant attraction to the one person who is totally off-limits, Nasir’s father. As the two spend more time together, their attraction builds until they reach a collision point that could blow up their worlds.
I’m going to start by saying that this book just was not for me. I think Emezi is a stellar writer and I have loved everything else I’ve read by them, but I just did not connect with this book and honestly didn’t like it. That said, I can see merit in a lot of the story that makes me want to give it some stars, even though it would never be one that I pick up to recommend to friends.
I thought the characters in the story were complex and expressive, but I didn’t think they were well-developed, especially Joy who had a large role in the story as the best friend and voice of reason, but was not given enough attention. Likewise, we know next to nothing about Alim, Nasir’s father, except that he lost his wife and had a romance with a man years later that he gave up for his children. Since the story is from Feyi’s perspective we get to see her thoughts and motivations more, but I even found her character to be a little surface level. Because of this, I had a really hard time connecting with the characters.
The fact that I did not connect with the characters compounded the fact that I also did not like or understand the romance. It made no sense to me that Alim would give up a deep love with someone for his children, but would push his children to the side for a new romance with a woman he just met. They connect over a shared loss of their life partners, but that one connection doesn’t seem like enough to build a romance on and shatter a family. If that was enough, they’d easily fall in love with anyone they meet in a grief support group. I just didn’t think their romance developed naturally.
I did feel that Emezi beautifully illustrated the complex feelings that come with grief and the challenge of rejoining society after a devastating loss. I thought these moments were descriptive, moving, and thoughtful and made me feel a stronger connection with Feyi. There were many moments, though, that felt repetitive and made the story read slower.
This book took me two whole weeks to read, which is quite slow for me. I just never connected with the characters or story and found myself more frustrated and confused than moved. I will still read more of Emezi’s work, but this one was a miss for me.
CW: homophobia, death, car accident, death of a parent