I have the honor to do a review of Seun Odukoya’s fourth book “Saving Dapo”. The book started as a blog series on his blog. Other works by Seun include the free book “for days and a night”, a free e-book that can be downloaded on his blog; A comic book about AIDS, also available on his blog. He also has a story published in NS anthology of short stories.
“Saving Dapo” was published by blacktext publishing in 2014. It is available in paperback with ISBN 978-1501066580 with 350 pages. The book also has a soundtrack (cool right?) as part of the promotional materials inclusive of tee-shirts too.
Saving Dapo is a novel, an illustrative novel, which borrowed some elements of a play. I think Seun has a great plan for the story, and has subtly hinted at it in the arrangement of the novel. I would not be surprised if the story is adapted for the screen. Whoever it is that has the task of being the script writer would not have much problem.
What is the central theme in the novel? Love. Love is depicted by Seun in several forms. There is the thunder clap type, that shakes you to your core and all else fades into insignificance, even commitments that you have made seem not to be able to subdue its effect. We see this type between Yemisi and Remi.
There is also the slow growing type, it grows on you at a steady rate till it takes over your being and threatens to drown you in it. It is akin to a man trapped in a house with water flooding the house and watches in horror as it gradually rises and submerge him. Such is the type between Dapo and Mope. It was so intense the feeling of being submerged that Dapo had to feign death in order to break free of its clutch. But love is a beautiful I hear you think and frown, but for Dapo, the feeling of losing control and losing himself to another person was enough to scare him to death- to fake death.
Also, we see another type of love, the type that transcends romantic feeling. One that would do anything to rescue the object of the affection. Even, if it means doing the unconventional and following the path least trodden, risking rejection and loss of dignity. Such was the type between Yemisi and Dapo.
We see love disguised as harshness, such love that gets lost in its expression. The one between Dapo and his father. It takes a near death illness for a father’s love to find the right expression. Seun also shows us that which we long for- a love that lasts. A role model is the one between Yemisi’s parents who still act like teenagers even after more than 30 years of marriage. It is such love that makes Dapo not lose hope in the establishment of marriage; theirs is like a beacon of hope amidst the stormy sea of failed marriages that threaten to make him despair. Seun also describes an impossible love, such as that of Grace towards Dapo.
It is around this theme that the novel revolves around in a story of twists and turns. Dapo is a handsome man in his thirties who is doing very well in his career, smart, and with a charming personality that makes him a favorite with ladies. He is also disciplined and dedicated to his career, with impeccable work ethics that earned him the employee of the year. His life is going well, till one fateful day at the entrance of a Galleria. He meets Mope, his old flame, one he had faked death to escape from and one whose love still burned in his soul even though he had tried to move on. Meeting her again made him realize why it had never worked out with the other ladies. A week later and they had a date. He was determined to rectify his past mistakes and bare his soul to her. He did, but then it was too late, Mope was getting married in a few months. And like a pack of cards, Dapo’s carefully arranged life crumbles.
Yemisi is a single career lady, warm and motherly. Attractive but with low self-esteem. This is not unconnected with her previous relationship to Priye, who suddenly travelled to Germany without telling her. She had been close to Dapo since their university days and have watched him go from one relationship to the other. In the wake of the recent development in Dapo’s life, she found herself worrying about him a lot of times. Out of the blues she receives a call from Priye her ex-boyfriend who was planning to return to Nigeria and wanted them to continue from where they had left off. Yemisi found that she was still very much attracted to Priye despite the way he had treated her and this unsettled her. In a moment of impulsivity, she took a decision. She was going to ask Dapo out, and she did, in the most romantic manner. Five days after asking Dapo out, Yemisi meets a guy that makes her drool, and for a brief moment, she wished she hadn’t been so hasty in her decision.
Remi walked into an eatery on Allen Avenue some days after his return from the UK where he worked with his father in an electronics store, and saw the most beautiful girl ever. He walked up to her deciding to make her his girlfriend for the duration of his stay in Nigeria. Unfortunately, she was in a relationship and refused to even give him her number. Several days later and in Ibadan and he still couldn’t take her off his mind. He decided to seek her out, having tailed her to her work place on their first meeting. They get along quite well and his hopes were mounting till Dapo introduced his girlfriend to him. Dapo’s girlfriend was Yemisi, the same girl he had fallen in love with. And all hell was let loose.
The story is fast paced and flows at a steady rhythm. The dialogue is lively and engaging, in some places the author introduced slangs and inflections of speech to describe the informal nature of interaction between Dapo and Yemisi and the easy camaraderie between them.
The characters evoke real emotions and we get to feel the pain of the characters as they navigate the challenges they face. One would wonder if Dapo was going to let go of his morals and find succor in the waiting and eager bosom of Grace as she offers to take away his hurt. One would feel deeply for Yemisi as she struggles with her feelings for Remi and her loyalty and commitment to Dapo.
Seun is a master wordsmith and knows just how to paint a colorful story that tugs at the heartstrings. Then there are the lines he uses in his dialogues especially the famous line used by Dapo “everybody needs to be someone’s baby” a very deep and basic truth that makes it okay for one to be vulnerable with and to totally rely on to take care of one.
I do not get why the novel was made an illustrative novel. The plot and the writing style could do well without any illustrations accompanying it. I did not see any additional information that the illustrations added to the novel. In fact, it subtracted from the beauty of the narrative and sometimes served as a distraction. To my mind, I think the author did not take himself seriously; almost like the making of the book was an experiment or something he didn’t think would fly.
Illustrative novels are usually reserved for plots with a lot of actions or that have technical aspects that need images to help the reader understand them and hence help with understanding of the novel. It is similar to a comic book. Seun has always indicated his love for comic books and maybe he could not resist the urge to add pictures to this novel.
Talking about novels, “Saving Dapo” was not written in the classic novel style. Rather, it was written in the form of a play with ‘Scenes’ and ‘Interludes’ rather than ‘Chapters’. Again, that playful and carefree approach to the publishing can be seen. The Novel opens with “Saving Dapo: Directed by Seun Odukoya” whereas the cover page reads “Saving Dapo: a novel by Seun Odukoya”. So, one is left to wonder, is this a novel or a play? Or a hybrid, a sort of experimental thing going on?
The paper quality is good and the printing was generally okay. The editing was almost perfect but there were a few typos. The font and paragraphing was very good and made reading easier. However, the text was presented in differing font sizes and sometimes in bold letters. I do not think it was necessary. The writing style already evokes heightened emotion and was driving the story at a fast pace already. Trying to emphasize the cliffhangers or key sentences by the change in size or making them in bold letters did not really make any difference.
I would suggest a revised edition with the illustrations removed and the text written in even font sizes. I must fail to comment on the extras- the interview with the characters. It was a stroke of genius. It gives a surreal feeling, like one is entering into the mind of the author and going through the process of character creation with him. However, some of the responses by the characters were flippant and a tad inappropriate for the concept that the author was going for. Or maybe what the author was trying for is to write another story within a story. With Seun, one can never really tell, his mind is a mystery.
Overall, “Saving Dapo” is a delight to read. I haven’t sat down with a novel to read from start to the end in a long time, and despite having followed the series from “The wahala with the truth” to the last episode of “Saving Dapo”, I still was not able to put the book down till I finished it. I was sprawled on the bed for four hours as I devoured the story all over again. It is one thing to read a blog series week after week, and another taking it all in. You didn’t have to spend all week anticipating what next, all you had to do was turn the next page.
As an aside, “Saving Dapo” is the first autographed copy of any book that I have ever received. It is so exciting! So, if you haven’t gotten your copy, go get one now.
To order, contact Seun at firstname.lastname@example.org