Nigerian born Becky Mustapha chronicles her life struggles, education, and widowhood in this brief biographical account.
Mustapha walks a line between modern womanhood and adhering to Nigerian tradition. When her mother dies, she’s sent to live with an aunt who burdens the young school girl with chores. At age 20, while a student of financial studies in the midst of final exams, her family arranges the details of her wedding.
Abi, her fiancé, works in the UK and is a staunch defender of her desire to be wife, mother, and professional in the face of his family’s criticism and ridicule. The couple relocates to the UK, where Mustapha continues her education in social work. Then suddenly, after 16 years of happy marriage and four children, Abi dies from an undiagnosed illness while in Nigeria, leaving wife and children in the UK.
In widowhood, Mustapha suffers unbearable loneliness, grief, and interference from her in-laws. Soon advised to resign from her job, she embraces projects to lift herself out of grief. Eventually, a failed re-marriage leads her to focus on her Islamic heritage. She returns to Nigeria whenever possible, ensuring her children learn their cultural heritage, and repairs relations with her husband’s family.
Mustapha’s journey is interesting and her life insights wise (i.e.,“education could save you…It could open doors and connect people”). Unfortunately, the narrative’s thematic arrangement (education, widowhood, sons, etc.) is awkward and results in a muddled and inconsistent timeline. For example, she’s married in 1998 at age 20 and writes that she wasn’t a virgin (as required by her cultural heritage), but in another passage, she states that she lost her virginity at age 22. Her 16-year marriage seemingly should have ended in 2014, but the date her husband died is stated as 2015.
Nevertheless, Mustapha’s message that fortitude leads to achievement and a life of no regrets emerges. Readers interested in African women’s studies or a story of surviving widowhood may find rewards here.
Also available as an ebook.