On Becoming : A Review

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TITLE OF BOOK: On Becoming
AUTHOR: Toke Makinwa
COUNTRY PUBLISHED: Nigeria
PUBLISHER:  Kachifo Limited, Nigeria
ISBN: 978-978-54604-0-7
YEAR OF PUBLICATION: 2016
NUMBER OF PAGES: 111
BOOK REVIEWER: Mof’Oluwawo O MojolaOluwa

‘On Becoming’ is an autobiographical account of the life and times of Toke Makinwa especially as it relates to her love life. Toke Makinwa, the second child of four children was born to Caleb Ifemayowa Makinwa and Modupe Monica Makinwa in the eighties. Born in Lagos to a civil servant and a teacher cum business woman, she moves with her family to Abuja, where her father has been transferred for work and lives there until eight, when a domestic fire accident which claims both her parents’ lives forces them to relocate, herself and her siblings plus a younger cousin, five children in all, to Lagos, to live with her mother’s older sister, simply referred to as big mummy.
Orphaned and suddenly uprooted at eight, with a heavy cloak of loss hanging over her and tons of unanswered questions, her life makes a sudden u-turn; turning her into a socially withdrawn and academically backward child. Perhaps the loss of her parents would influence the kind of adult she turns out to be? Perhaps not?
In the book, more focus is placed on Toke’s relationships. From her very first crush, it appears she’s always been into the wrong men. But ‘wrong’ is a relative term. Her first crush, the church choir leader, is caught kissing another girl at the back of the church, breaking her ‘little heart’. In her own words, ‘…she fell in love too quickly, even scaring away a few guys with her intensity…’
Her relationship with her first boyfriend fizzles out after she gains admission into the university. Her academic life sees no improvement as she even almost drops out but for the gracious big mummy, who comes to her rescue last minute.
From this point on, we are introduced to the man who becomes the ‘Most Valuable Player’ in Toke’s life and the book- Maje. Meeting at a club on the same night she was dumped by her incumbent boyfriend, one thing leads to the other and they hit off a whirlwind romance, one that would gradually fizzle into a turbulent, on and off relationship and eventually culminate in a marriage- a marriage of inconvenience and subsequently, a separation, a divorce, a book! On Becoming.
Spanning fourteen chapters and a very organic plot, ‘On Becoming’ is more of a ‘tell all’ than a ‘must tell’ which it has been branded by the author. While a crystal clear attempt has been made at objectivity, the rule- hear the other party out- still holds giving room for self drawn conclusions by the readers until then. With superb diction, shuttling between formality and informality, and an articulate use of prefiguration and flashbacks, it leaves one wanting to keep turning the pages until the very last. The skillfulness with which the events are sequenced and narrated can be seen for example at some point we are made to laugh at her perceived naivete in men matters while just having read of the loss of her parents, without undermining the severity of her loss.
Despite her heavily religious background, chiefly from her father, there’s a conspicuous attempt at distancing herself from any form of conferred religiosity, instead she opts for a sense of deep spirituality evinced in her accounts of hearing from God.
A non-fictional prose, the careful precision with which she lays out each person’s role in the plot without any malicious name calling or slandering must not go unnoticed, also, her deliberate refusal to play any blame game is laudable. She gives intentional gratitude to whom due, and fixes culpability where it belongs. Though subtle but noticeable nevertheless, Toke comes off as a being with several unanswered questions, something which perhaps informs some if not most of her decisions in life and consequently, the repercussions. More often than not, the handwriting is there on the wall for all to see but then, as they say, love is blind. She is painted as a stubborn child with a mind of her own but too weak willed to do right by herself when it comes to men. Giving herself to a man whose love for her- if any at all, bore strong resemblance to shifting shadows, she spends her years trying to love him into loving her, something she fails at, woefully. Perhaps the book was so named to portray how Toke became the woman that she is today but really, does ‘becoming’ have to revolve all around a man? Perhaps a better title, something more streamlined to the subject matter- Maje would have served her better? Perhaps not?
Her relationship with Maje however, is seen to have spurred her unto a successful career and financial independence, something worthy of emulation.
But then, we can only say all these because we read a retrospective account of another’s life. Toke has made it a point of duty to outline some lessons to be learnt from her account, it is hoped that others would learn from her experience and refuse to duplicate her mistakes while emulating her good points. While her story is nothing peculiar compared to the several hundreds of women going through some similar but unsung predicaments, it is hoped that her voicing out would serve to enlighten and help such men and women alike, out of life’s quandaries
The story is basically set in Nigeria and the United Kingdom (London in particular). The time setting is sometime between the eighties up until 2016 when the book was actually published. The primary focus in Nigeria is Lagos, where Toke lives and works.
On the whole, we cannot accept Toke’s account as the whole, true and perfect story. If we were to give most of the characters in the story (particularly the perceived or portrayed chief antagonist(s)) an opportunity to tell their own side of the story, they would definitely tell it from a different perspective hence, the need for us to be careful and not jump into hasty conclusions. This is the story as told from the perspective of one woman and we may therefore submit that for all the issues we have been intimated with in this story, our knowledge of them remains partial until we hear the other parties out.

This was first published on 12/23/2016 here http://www.bukrepublik.com/blog/2016/12/23/a-review-of-toke-makinwas-on-becoming/

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