For frequent readers of my blog, my absence from posting new articles in the last one year was very noticeable. My absence was due to the fact that I had taken a new author under my wing and was assisting in perfecting her new book for publication. For 8 months, we put everything else aside and worked assiduously to meet deadlines and make sure the book was perfect for publication. Our hard work paid off. The book was published early this year and the book launch was held on Saturday, 20th May 2017.
The attendance and outpouring of support we received from family, friends, and well-wishers were astounding. For the benefit of those who were unable to attend and those who may want to read the book review, I have reproduced it below as it was presented on the day of the event. Pardon the length but one of my weaknesses is my inability to summarize.
Your Excellencies, your Royal Highnesses, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, good morning. Welcome to the launch of a literary masterpiece that is the brainchild of an amazing and imaginative young author. We are truly grateful and honored by your presence here today.
I am esteemed beyond words to be considered worthy of being a part of bringing this book to life. During the eight months I was tasked with the lofty responsibility of editing and proofreading the manuscript that gave birth to it, I was granted the rare privilege of experiencing and witnessing firsthand the intellectual and physical, yet rewarding toll writing a book can take on the mind of an author. For the aspiring authors present here, please do not let my use of the words “intellectual and physical toll” discourage you from chasing the dream of writing a book. Writing a book is one of the most fulfilling things you could ever do with your life. I urge you to take up that challenge and face it head on.
Aside from endowing me with a much deeper respect for published authors and the literary arts, the experience further proved to me that writing a book is itself a voyage of discovery to what the limits of your determination are, and to whether or not you possess the courage to push beyond those limits.
This book under review is the author’s first published literary work. What she has been able to achieve on her first attempt is rare, and is definitely something to marvel at.
Divine Love is a fictional romance story.
Divine Love is a story about Khadijah, a young Nigerian Muslim architect who meets Frank, an American and atheist, on a flight to New York to attend a summit organized by the United Nations. What begins as a casual conversation about Islam leads to something much more as they both struggle to rise above their opposing cultural and religious backgrounds.
The major themes of the book are:
RESPECT FOR OUR SHARED HUMANITY
The story is narrated in the third person. In literature, third person narratives are subdivided into the Omniscient and Limited Third Person narrative. The story is told through the Omniscient Third Person Narrative to create a more immersive reading experience, which gives the reader full knowledge of all characters and events devoid of bias or preferences. This form of narrative is regarded as the most objective and trustworthy as it gives the reader the feeling that an all-knowing narrator is telling the story.
The advantage of the third person narrative is that it affords the writer a wider latitude to describe events, people, places and things in much greater detail than the first person narrative, where the use of the word “I” tends to be boring, cumbersome, limited in terms of its descriptive capacity, and full of bias. The adoption of the third person narrative in Divine Love gives the reader a much wider appreciation, understanding, and a feeling of closeness to each character, thus allowing the chance to build a bond between the reader and the characters in equal measure.
The story is set in 2017. This is no coincidence. It was done to further enhance the content and context of the story in relation to the current state of the world’s economic, political and religious affairs.
The story is set primarily in two locations viz: Nigeria (Abuja specifically) and New York. References are made to Saudi Arabia and London during discussions between the characters.
Each of the primary locations in which the story is set features the architecture, culture, landscapes and lifestyles of its residents in great detail. In Nigeria, readers are given a detailed glimpse of life in Nigeria and life in a contemporary Northern Nigerian home with intermittent descriptions, discussions, and references to rural life.
In New York, readers are taken on a tour of the sights and sounds of the city. Accurate descriptions of the Guggenheim Museum, Central Park, the United Nations and Park Avenue are given with such intricate detail, readers would have no problems picturing these places in their minds.
The settings of the story further help to express and give the reader a strong sense of the cultural, religious and societal polarities which form the basis of the story.
Aside from creating a compelling plot and an engaging storyline, the third most difficult part of creating a literary work of fiction is character development. Character development goes beyond just creating a character, giving it a name and a role. As the story evolves, the characters must evolve with it. In literature, characters can be simple or complex characters. Regardless of which one an author chooses to model the story on, however, one exigent requirement is they must be psychologically believable for the literary work to stand the test of time, and they must fit into the context of the story being told. Character development is very important in character-driven literature such as this one where the story focuses not just on events, but on individual personalities as well.
A good character is one whose background or back story ties in seamlessly with the story being told, follows a logical path, and connects with that of other characters, whose role in the story is well-defined by the writer, understood by the reader, and is able to fit perfectly with the climax or ending of the story.
All the characters in Divine Love possess these attributes. The histories of the major characters are traced in detail up to the point where they converge with one another. Major or recurring characters complement each other effortlessly to give the story a well-balanced structure. Minor characters feature at precise times, execute their roles perfectly without causing a distraction, and dissolve into the story leaving the reader to concentrate on the major characters and events of the story.
Something significant to note about the characters is that despite being creations of imagination, there is very little about them that is imaginary, as they are natural and very relatable. A lot of consideration and thought was put into creating them. From the very first page, readers will realize they know someone in real life that possesses similar attributes with a lot of the characters. Let’s take the main character Khadijah as an example: she is brilliant, determined, honest, humble, loyal, and has immeasurable love for her family and friends. She reminds me of my wife.
Literature has always played a role in highlighting important issues, educating the public and championing the cause for social change. George Bernard Shaw in his book “Arms & the Man used literature to expose the false ideals of warfare. George Orwell in “Animal Farm” employed literature as a stinging critique of the history and rhetoric of the Russian Revolution and also as an allegory of the rise to power of Joseph Stalin.
In the last two years or so, there has been an exponential increase in books published by Nigerian authors, which aside from telling stories, have also challenged injustice, highlighted social ills and have attempted to cause a change in public policies. Elnathan John’s “Born on a Tuesday”, Abubakar Adam Ibrahim’s “Season of Crimson Blossoms” and Helon Habila’s “Oil on Water” have brought social injustices to the fore and have forced a discussion about remedying some of these issues.
“Divine Love” stands on the same footing with the aforementioned. It has provided a balanced and rational discussion about cultural, social and religious issues of critical importance. It has tactfully woven a beautiful story, which it has used as a medium to deliver a message about the essence of appreciating diversity and humanity. It has emphasized and expressed the true nature of Islam that has been obscured by the insensitive & reprehensible actions of those who cloak themselves under its veil and commit heinous crimes in its name thus bringing disrepute to its noble name. It has attempted to quell misconceptions and Islamophobia by telling a story about Islam from the best possible angle; the human angle.
Divine Love is a book that will resonate with anyone and everyone: from those who want to read a story that emphasizes the need for an appreciation of diversity and our shared humanity, to those who just want to read about a beautiful love story, to those who want to read a book that takes you on a journey of rich descriptions of amazing places.
While working on this book, I was able to gain an understanding of the creative processes of the author’s mind. Based on what I have seen, I can honestly say we haven’t heard the last of her. This is just the beginning.
It is our hope that this book will be read with the same depth of feeling with which it was written.