Life is full of ebbs and flows; nothing is straightforward, the past can reach out and meddle in the present, and second chances are not always easy to accept. This story, with its twists and turns, is the story of Adoo and Toby. Written by Sifa Asani Gowon, A Taste Of Love is an interesting fictional love story. The characters are regular people, the plot believable and its unexpected twists and turns keep you wondering how the story will end.
Adoo Ibi is a single mother of a three-year-old son, Zander. She’s also a cake maker and a chorister in her church, who has succeeded in reinventing herself after the relationship with her son’s father went awry.
Toby Onoche is a club manager who takes a job in Jos to escape the pains of an unrequited love.
Both of them are scarred by the past and are wary of getting involved with anyone of the opposite sex.
Aduke is Adoo’s friend and flatmate, a woman with a warm and bubbly personality, who encourages and supports her friend. Together with Adoo, they run an event managing business called Much A Do About Events.
Hananni Mustapha is Toby’s one-time best friend and ex-lover, who is now married to Bala Mustapha, who also used to be Toby’s close friend. The complexity in their feelings has badly strained the friendship between these three.
The plot of A Taste Of Love is a good and relatable plot. The story begins with Adoo having a hectic day, with everything that could go wrong doing so. On her way to choir practice, she stops to get a pizza for Aduke at the restaurant of Bar-Rage, a fashionable nightclub in town. A club hostess, Emem, is insolent and treats her with disdain. This leads to Adoo losing her temper. Toby walks in on the heated exchange and settles the issue.
Adoo meets Toby again when she has a flat tire and he offers her a lift. From then on, they form a tenuous relationship of sorts, both reluctant to define anything.
This outing with Toby, as nice as it was turning out to be, could mean nothing but two friends spending time together. We’re friends, she reminded herself and besides, you don’t trust men, especially the gorgeous ones, remember? – Page 18.
A Taste Of Love explores two main themes: a bad past is best left behind, and one should not be afraid to accept second chances.
“Sometimes, life gets in the way of dreaming, Toby,” she answered, looking down to avoid revealing too much of her inner turmoil.
“Not life, Adoo. People. People get in the way of dreams.” – Page 19.
The book also explores the practice of customer relations common in many Nigerian establishments. Emem, for all her rudeness, isn’t fired, neither is she appropriately reprimanded; she keeps on aggravating Adoo each time she returns to the Bar-Rage.
The descriptive style used in the book is very clear. I could paint the pictures in my mind. I could see a carefree and safe Jos, when she tips the guard to watch Zander, while she’s buying pizza. The spat between Emem and Adoo, the palms that stand as sentinels beside the church doors, the heat in the courtroom, the emotions of the characters… At some point, I forgot it was a book and found myself rolling my eyes and wanting to scream, “Woman, can’t you see he loves you?”
There was a little bit of disconnect in some parts of the story that had me going over the paragraph again, to see if I’d missed something.
“Easy there, this is a Hananni-style drama waiting to happen.” – Page 36.
In light of the situation between Toby and Hananni, this phrase seems a little premature and perhaps, misplaced.
Everyone has a character flaw, and the heroine is not left out. Jumping to conclusions and her unwillingness to ask questions when she should appear to be Adoo’s flaws. Though no one is perfect, her shortcomings are a bit annoying.
There are a few unanswered questions. What is the odd situation that Oiza, Toby’s sister, has gotten herself into? Is Jamie her boyfriend? Is he quite older than her? Probably Caucasian? Some sort of deviant? What is it about him that her parents are likely to object to, that needs her brother softening them up? The novel is silent on this and the reader is left to speculate.
Also, I wonder at how Adoo and Toby intend to settle the matter of their faith. She’s obviously not into sex before marriage, and he is the reverse; she’s a woman of faith, and he only makes a faint reference to a religious childhood. I would’ve loved to see this particular matter brought to a resolution.
The bits of unexpected humour are refreshing. For instance, when Toby tells Adoo that she’s one of the nicest people he’s met in Jos, and she replies, “Nice, eh? That is one of the blandest adjectives in the English language.” I agree. There’s also when Toby gulps at being handed the receipt for the cake-making tools. The banter between Adoo and Aduke is perfect.
There were many needless phrases and quite a few repetitions that could’ve been done without.
He did not like Abuja much. Nothing save pressing business issues and family could make him come. And he was here for both reasons. – Page 53.
This is repeated four pages later, when Toby says to his sister, “Oiza, you know very well that nothing would make me come out in this heat, except money and family. And in this case, it happens to be both.”
Telling us the thoughts of the characters every so often, often ending with rhetorical questions, was a bit too much telling and less about showing. I feel the witty coinage of Adoo and Aduke’s business name should’ve been left for the reader to divine, rather than explained. A few misplaced adjectives here and there, but all in all, it was a good read.
I’ve read a lot of romance novels, so this was a bit predictable for me. There were a few surprises, like the fact that he’d slept with Hananni and the conversation they had at the eatery; the exploration of deep feelings, without compromising the narrative. I like the fact that it was set in Jos, loved the visit to the zoo and would’ve preferred a few more outdoor scenes, more descriptions of the city of Jos. I especially liked the Hausa phrases thrown in here and there.
I like Adoo’s grit and decision to stand on her own, though it may not always be the best choice. She easily forgives and doesn’t waste time in making her mind too, although her quick turnabouts were a little too abrupt for me.
I love African stories, Nigerian ones in particular, and I recommend A Taste Of Love to everyone. Adoo and Toby’s bravery to open their hearts to love a second time, their resolve in spite of the apparent risk and their attitudes create characters that we can relate to. Most important, an inspiring theme teaches one a lesson that can be used for life.
Review done by Eketi Ette
Taste Of Love is still available on ankarapress.com.