This is my first book review so I apologize in advance if it falls short. I undertook this as a challenge from a very dear friend and also because I consider it an honour to be asked by the author to do so, one that I respect so much and whose writings leave me in awe at her creative prowess.
Here is my amateur attempt. However, I will not be playing by any rules in this review of Sifa Asifa Gowon’s debut novel, ‘Playing by her rules’
The book was published by Author house UK Limited in 2013 and available in both ebook and paperback.
Like the techno-freak that I am, I opted for the e-book which was also an advantage because while the other fans who were not 21st century compliant were waiting for their local bookstores to get their shelves stocked, I was curling up with a bottle of coke and enjoying the book.
The book’s main theme is about love and football. The main character in the book is Tari, a 29 year old, single, interior decorator, who is unconventional in her passion for football. Aside from God, her family, the next is football, a fact which is hard for her friends to comprehend. She sits in crowded viewing centres amidst the sweaty and grime covered male bodies with her best friend’s fiancé and joins in the screaming and shouting in celebration of a goal.
In a way, I think the main character is a reflection of the author, whose theme is unconventional. She must be an avid football fan herself. I may be wrong and the novel could be the result of extensive research which in itself is fantastic because she got the details down to the minutest.
Right from the cover design, one already is drawn to the heart of the story. One gets the image of who the heroine is; a classy lady, meticulous about her appearance and who is confident in herself. One can already see the dilemma she is in, with her face and attention towards the well clad man in suit and a stethoscope around his neck and her hand in another’s, one who is casually dressed in denim and a tee shirt. Although, the doctor appears to be the picture of her ideal man, the heart being treacherous as it always is longs for the friendship and companionship of the other. However much she struggles to ignore him, she can’t let go of his hand.
The book opens on a suspenseful note as Tari is seen at the edge of her seat as she watches her favorite team playing and urges her football hero on as he weaves through the opponent’s defense. Her relief is palpable as she jumps in delight when he scores the winning goal.
We are then shown more about her, her insecurities about her image and ‘imperfections’, her dark past and her struggle to unravel her identity and her struggles with growing up without the knowledge of who her father is. We also are shown the challenges that face a single, successful woman in Africa where a woman is seen as not complete except she is married. Tari is depicted as a smart, self-confident woman who rises above these challenges and stays focused not willing to settle for less than she deserves.
She gets a big job to design a mansion in the heart of the capital city of Abuja which had recently been bought by an anonymous buyer. Amidst the mystery surrounding the owner, she sets to work and falls sick from putting in too many hours. It was while returning home that she ran into her hero, Kay, who was coerced to return to Nigeria to recuperate from a knee injury.
They met in the most unlikely of circumstances; she rammed his car while trying to reverse and to make matters worse, she passed out while he was berating her for her carelessness.
Enter Dr Hafis, handsome and soft spoken who rescued Tari amidst the panic and gathering crowd with a highly discomfited Kay, unsure of what to do.
Thus in one day, Tari gets introduced to two guys who would vie for a place in her heart. In a tale of twists and turns, Tari must decide who amongst them she would give her heart to, Hafis, trustworthy and safe or Kay, gorgeous and a wild card, one whose guts she hates, and whom she must tame if she is to have any future with him. She is caught in the middle of a battle between her head and her heart.
Caetano Kay Oyeniran is a half caste, born to a Nigerian father and a Brazilian mother. He is bitter and estranged from his family. He was forced to return to Nigeria following a knee injury where he meets Tari and is irresistibly attracted. His interest however is purely physical but as he cultivates her friendship, he finds in her an inner peace that is at variance with the turmoil in his. With her encouragement, he faces his past and reunites with his family. Slowly and against his will, he finds himself falling for her and soon he finds he can’t live without her and determines to do whatever it would take to woo her.
Sifa’s characters are real and relatable. It is no wonder as she herself admitted that the characters are modeled after people that are close to her in real life. The dialogues are good and the reader can identify with the emotions evoked by each character.
It is an impossible love story about an average lady meeting and falling in love with her football hero. It is a feel good story, one that portrays love conquering all. This is especially seen as their two worlds clash severally and an ex-girlfriend reappearing on the scene.
One must not fail to mention the character of Minka, Kay’s therapist, firm, motherly and sensitive. Often times, she nudges Kay along in the right direction and knows how to get to him when he was being stubborn. She understood that underneath the tough exterior is someone who was hurting.
Overall, the story moved at a steady pace although it slowed down a bit in the middle but it picked up pace again towards the ending. There were a few typographical errors in the e-book too.
It is an enjoyable book and I couldn’t put it down till I finished it. So, hurry, pick a copy today or for the techno-geeks, log in to amazon.