Wahala was one of the New York Post books of the year, so I had to check it out and it didn’t disappoint. It’s a great mommy-lit novel about four mixed-race women in London. The women are daughters of despicable Nigerian fathers and white mothers. And they are all messed up about men.
The problem that the female characters of Wahala encounter is that black men are deadbeats and crooks while white men are doormats and wimps. And the women themselves are entitled, horrid brats. If you ever felt a bit down on yourself, read this novel. Whatever your faults are, you’ll feel like a saint compared to these characters.
As the women in Wahala abuse their pathetic white husbands and miserable children or are abused by shifty black boyfriends or fathers, they consume boatloads of interesting Nigerian foods. There are even recipes included at the end of the book!
This isn’t high art, of course, but it’s great entertainment. However, the phenomenon the novel points to is true. I have no idea why it’s so but women from unfortunate countries do tend to exist only in two modes: being eagerly mistreated by compatriots and acting like total bastards toward kind, earnest men from more civilized places.
Leaving aside the racial angle (which is hard to do because the author makes sure you never forget about it), the novel shows us how ugly the life of uncontrolled consumerism is. If you don’t have some limiting factor – be it religion or an intense intellectual life – unchecked wanting turns you into a horrid person. The female characters of Wahala are so nasty because there’s no organizing principle in their lives, no moral code, no purpose. They do atrocious things and never even realize it. This is what living in a moral vacuum looks like, and it’s scary.
2 thoughts on “Book Notes: Nikki May’s Wahala”
Thank you for the lovely review. Not that I would ever read such a novel, but I’m glad to know that there are other people out there who share my moral compass.
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There’s a character in the novel who, knowing that her husband is desperate to have a child, aborts his baby and then mocks him for being distressed about it. And he still takes her back in the end and gives up his dream of having children.
Another character cheats on her husband, publicly humiliates him, abuses their child. And he still takes her back.
The idea that women can exercise any self-control is alien to these characters.