Being Lara by Lola Jaye – Book Review

Being Lara by Lola Jaye
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks, an imprint of HarperCollins

At 30, Lara is finally fairly comfortable with who she is. Sure, she’s still terrified of commitment, and of getting too close to anyone, but she is finally secure in her identity, as the adopted daughter of Trish and X Reid, as a daughter whose skin tone is vastly different from that of her parents. No longer is Lara particularly interested in knowing anything about her birth mother, and never has she been curious about her birth country, Nigeria. All of this changes, however, when Lara’s birth mother, Yomi, shows up unexpectedly at her 30th birthday party. Now, for the first time, Lara is forced to think about her past and who she really is.

Despite the name, Being Lara is not simply Lara’s story. Much of the book is actually from the perspective of Trish and Yomi, Lara’s adoptive and birth mothers. These sections with their alternate viewpoints may just save Jaye’s book, because Lara is, at the beginning of the book in particular, a bit difficult to take. Actually, she’s more than just a bit difficult to take, and if she had been the only focus of the book, chances are good that I would have abandoned it in frustration. Despite her happy family and the fact that she seems to be well-adjusted, she is incredibly immature and naive, overly stuck in her ways, and about as proficient at romantic relationships as a teenage boy.  Obnoxious, and so flawed as to seem like a cliche instead of a living character. Luckily, her mothers’s stories – particularly Yomi’s story – add interest and give the reader something with which to sympathize.

Eventually Lara becomes more life-like and easier to relate to, but it does take time, making the reader exceptionally glad for the way that Yomi and Trish’s stories intersect hers. This is a book that is more concerned with plot than prose, and that does come through. Jaye’s writing is solid, but it fails to overcome any apathy the reader might feel towards the storyline or the characters. There is also – in the advance copy, a least – a continuity problem, wherein Lara and her best friend take a cab to her birthday party , and then Lara tears out of there in her own car after her birth mother surprises her. This may have been caught before the final, but as they took a cab for a very specific reason, it would have required some re-writing.

Although Being Lara is an interesting story with a satisfying conclusion, the first half in particular failed to impress me as much as I hoped it would.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Publisher.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives by Lola Shoneyin – Book Review

The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives by Lola Shoneyin
Published by William Morrow, an imprint of Harper Collins

When Bolanle becomes Baba Segi’s fourth wife, she has no idea what she is in for. A college graduate who finds escape from her life in this polygamous Nigerian household, Bolanle’s education and beauty inspires jealousy and hatred in Baba Segi’s other wives, particularly Iya Segi and Iya Femi. When Baba Segi decides to take Bolanle to the hospital for tests to find out why she has been unable to conceive, however, she becomes a threat not only to Iya Segi and Iya Femi’s positions in the household, but possibly even to the very basis of their life together.

“The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s is told in a very interesting manner. The book opens with a chapter in third person and has at least one more chapter structured like this, but most of the book is told in first person. The thing is, it is not always the first person of Bolanle, the protagonist. Each of the wives – and even Baba Segi – gets to narrate at least one chapter. Surprisingly, Shoneyin did quite a good job of helping the reader figure out who was narrating each chapter very quickly. Bolanle’s chapters had actual chapter titles, but the other chapters were titled with the name of the person narrating. Of course, I rarely look at chatper titles, so I didn’t realize this until well over halfway through the book, but I was still able to figure out with minimal confusion who was narrating.

Although Shoneyin definitely had the skills to make it work, I found the use of multiple first person narrators to be an odd choice, and one that distracted a bit from my enjoyment of the book. The story is very engaging, but the execution probably took me from loving this book to simply liking it.

Note: Lola Shoneyin stopped by and explained her reasons for using multiple first person narrators, so scroll down and check out her comment, her reasoning makes a lot of sense.

Buy this book from:
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound.*

This review was done with a book received from the publisher for review.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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