November 11-17, 2013 is Ghanaian Literature Week (#GhanaLit), a celebration of the literary scene in and connected to Ghana. Go on, familiarize yourself with the rules of engagement, and get involved! Below, a review of my first read, Boakyewaa Glover's 'Circles.'
The cyclical roller coaster that is Rabbie Daniels' life is at the centre of Boakyewaa Glover's debut novel, Circles. On the cusp of thirty, and caught up in a situation not unlike the vicious cycle she's experienced since first discovering the tricky thing called love, Rabbie takes stock of the events that have brought her to a pivotal point. And thus we meet her, this successful writer on CNN's International Desk who, it seems, cannot pen a drama-free existence for herself when it comes to her relationships. In order to understand her present fruitless search for love and validation, we must know her past. This is really where Circles begins, an elaborate, kaleidoscopic journey back to that first flush of love and the road since.
Glover takes us on something of an eventful blitz through Rabbie's little black book of boyfriends past. There is Selorm, the significant first with whom she first locks lips during a game of Truth or Dare. (I chuckled at how this 'risky' game has long been an undeniable accessory to many a teenage sexual discovery.) That first game of tonsil tennis seems to be the start of an unofficial coupling for Selorm and Rabbie, who revel in being together, talking, laughing and kissing the life out of each other. It all comes crashing down one night when, without precedent, she enjoys a very public kiss with another guy, Jon, in the full view of Selorm. This event marks the start of a troubling pattern that makes serial cheating par for the course in her latter relationships. Along the way there are other guys, including Junior, Edem, Tei, Kwame, Osei, Asare and Ato, this last the recurring sex buddy and best friend for whom she has a complex bag of feelings. Osei, too, is the besotted long suffering boyfriend who forgives her cheating ways time and again with no sign of change from Rabbie.
As we delve into the story, Circles conveys the circular wheels of a never ending ride that makes the novel so aptly named, because, boy, does that girl go round in circles. She is strong and opinionated, a young woman who doesn't suffer fools gladly, except perhaps when it comes to Ato, the lover who tramples all over her unsuspecting heart with his philandering ways in a manner that cuts deeply. And still she hooks up with him. You wonder how Rabbie, who, though she seems to have a level head screwed on, allows herself to be disrespected thus despite her unequivocal views on similar situations with her girl friends. And even though it's just as easy to dismiss these events as comeuppance for her lifetime of cheating on boyfriends, it doesn't dim the pity some. Because in what is art imitating life, there's always that one person, isn't there? (Thanks, Usher !)
She is likable and full of fizz, her caustic descriptions injecting humour into a story that nearly topples over with the presence of too many characters in a mostly simple plot. The chapter on her boarding school life in Wesley Girls' High School, for example, is a dizzying swirl of names, cliques and crisscrossing friendships. There hovered, however, a tinge of nostalgia for WGHS, incidentally my alma mater, so I definitely read that with a half smile.
Circles is no pressure cooker, coasting more on the simmering heat of a slow cooker. At its epicentre is the idea that we are each the choices we make, and the consequences thereof. And then, just as a kick up the bum, it throws into the ring the question '...so what the heck are you doing about yours?'
Boakyewaa Glover has chalked further success since this novel was published in 2009, and though I was not swept away by Circles, I certainly look forward to checking out her newer works.