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An emotional rollercoaster with a message

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Title: Her Eyes Tell Our Stories
Author: Omotayo Sangofadeji
Publisher: CB Fred-Andre Ltd.
Pages: 168
Reviewer: Faith Moyosore Agboola

Omotayo Sangofadeji, a financial consultant by day and a writer by night, has written a book that will pierce your heart with its strong characters and succinct message. Each story is a breathtaking bit of an entire puzzle which builds up to deliver an experience that is hard to describe in simple words. With her exploration of topics that are naturally avoided, from point of views that are never given a chance, none of her stories is amiss; they all come together to create a book that is rich in everything a contemporary fiction should be.

With Love, Zoey is one of those stories as it reaches for your heart from the first page and holds it in a hard clamp-up till the very end. The story explores heartbreak as experienced by two men who are in love with the same woman and the reader is exposed to messy and complicated endings. We cannot side with the protagonist because he has his slip ups, neither can we defend the woman at the center of it all, because she equally falls short. Michael, the man whose prompt pushes the story, and by extension our hearts, can also not be labeled a monster. Instead, we are stuck in the middle, with our teeth biting our nails, searching for a middle ground. By the end of the story, the reader feels conflicting emotions that are hard to place, yet strong enough to make the story a memorable one. With this first story, the author delivers a reading experience that is emotionally excruciating and addictive; a winner in every sense of the word.

Flipping to the next story, with the aftermath of the first still strong in the reader’s mind, we are further sucked into Sangofadeji’s world of emotions and gripping storytelling abilities.

Feminism is a very touchy subject in today’s world, yet the author – the founder of Fight Against Rape, an NGO caring for women and their rights – jumps right out of the gate and delves straight into the topic unapologetically. In Her Eyes Tell Our Stories, she adequately drives home her message of protecting the autonomy of women. She doesn’t do this with boring dialogues as is common with creative writings that attempt to dissect feminism; instead she delivers a collection of sub-stories that shows, rather than tells, why gender equality should be fought for by all and sundry.

Whether it is through Abimbola’s damaged quest to be the perfect wife, Asminah’s unfair teenage marriage struggles, Ademidun’s battle with the memories of her rapists, Amaka’s tussle with her husband’s greedy relatives, Afolashade’s experience of domestic abuse, Anita’s assault by a sexual predator she calls uncle or Amanda’s journey of a new world, we are taken on a journey of experiencing the excruciating lives of these women through the pages of Her Eyes Tell Our Stories. By the last page of the story, the reader feels a seething anger and deep longing for change.

The Mistress, the third emotional rollercoaster of the collection, thankfully explores an integral issue in our culture. We see the world of ‘the other woman’ through the eyes of the very person society is inclined to throw stones at. Toun, the lead character, wears her heart on her sleeve with an enthusiasm that even the most unromantic realist will find hard to fault. Her relationship with Dioso tells a relevant tale and the author’s passion for themes such as love, and heartbreak continues to shine forth.

Yosola and Deolu in No Extras paddle us into an ocean of self-searching questions, re-education and enlightenment. The reader almost drowns, enveloped in their journey, feeling the weight of their pain yet unable to run out. We swim together with this couple as they dance through infertility and the challenges it places on the love and loyalty between them. We are pulled further into their breaking point, discovering how fickle perspective is, and by the time we leave the waters of this story, we finally know the answer to the opposite of ‘sad’.

In the final story, the author delivers a great finish to an already exhilarating experience. In the concluding story, “In Life and Death”, we read an epistolary that takes us into a very uncomfortable space. We wear the shoes of people we would typically judge and we root for each character as an individual piece in a chessboard of agony that has now become their life.

In all, Her Eyes Tell Our Stories is a collection of short stories that will remain etched on the walls of your heart for a long time. Each story grabs you abruptly and never leaves you. It is a bold debut. I love that Sangofadeji explores typically uncharted waters and delivers her message in such a unique fashion that forces the reader to see life differently. Each topic is relevant, and each story is valid. She pens down decades of pain, of oppression, of judgment and molds it into stories that we can see ourselves in. Perhaps, that can be considered a great achievement by a debutant.


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