Although born in London, author Ayomide Adeniola spent most of her childhood in her parents’ homeland of Nigeria, where she lived with her three siblings and their hardworking mother, a nurse. Adeniola’s father, who had separated from the family, was not a reliable source of support. His ex-wife filled the breach, ferociously determined that her children would be well supported, well educated, and good Christian members of their Pentecostal church. Mum was a fighter, and in the author’s eyes, a hero.
But life with Mum was far from perfect. She was controlling and emotionally unpredictable: warm and understanding one moment, harsh and critical the next. When the author fell in love, Mum did what she could to undermine the relationship. Unbraiding the tangled strands of her mother’s influence would take many years for the author.
Although she clearly wants to tell her story, Adeniola seems to pull back from fully exposing her mother to our judgment. In the book’s introduction, she writes of “the difficulties attached to writing a biographical piece that presents an unhappy side of life.” Readers are told of the unfounded accusations and beatings the author experienced in her childhood, but they can’t feel the intensely powerful emotions she must have felt as they occurred. This may not be fully intentional on the author’s part: it took many years of intermittent counseling for her to begin to grasp that she’d been abused. Whatever the cause, this diffidence ends up hurting the book at its core.
Still, there is much to admire here. Adeniola writes well and is a sensitive observer; in addition, the trajectory of her life from her student days in Nigeria to her professional life in England is genuinely interesting. Her writing is informed by her Christian faith, but not in a way that puts off more secular readers. One can’t help but wish her well and anticipate what she might achieve in her future work.