By Samuel Oluwatobi Olatunji
Toke Makinwa’s On Becoming is a troubling tale of a troubled talebearer. That is the first statement that came to my head when I decided to review the book. Before reading the book, I have heard quiet a number of things. At first, it was discussed on a Whatsapp group chat, which I am a member of. Some regarded it as a mere extended rumour. Some regarded it as a replay of Tiwa Savage’s stunt (after her breakup with Teebillz) documented instead of dramatized. A friend, however, praised Toke’s courage in writing the memoir, and said she read the book in a day, enjoying every chapter. However, this is not what generated my interest in reading the book. I decided to read the book when a friend on BBM posted that Toke’s book has made her a more popular author than Helon Habila. That really got my attention, because I love Helon. I have read all his published books because of my love for his writing. So I decided to read Toke’s book. Interestingly, I am a member of a book club on Twitter and Telegram (The Read Club), and the book for the first week of December was Toke’s On Becoming. I read it in a day, and the most touching part for me is the tragic loss of Toke’s parents, which reminds me of another friend (I later sent a copy to my friend, asking her to read it).
One thing I observe as my eyes moved from one page to another is that every chapter is a clutter of dreams that seem to fall apart. And Toke is an interesting personality. Anyway, her flaw is that she is so infatuated with her dreams that she ignores the symptoms of a diseased dream. She eventually becomes involved in “an unending cycle of hurt and betrayal.” The major dream that instigates this cycle is the fairy-tale dream of a romantic relationship with a perfect prince charming.
Sadly, Maje, her seemingly ideal husband, is too much of a man, precisely a marred man, to be this perfect prince charming.
At the beginning of the memoir, we find this major dream to be threatened by the rumoured pregnancy of Anita, one of the hubby’s mistresses. Then it is further threatened by rumours and appearances of more mistresses: Erica, Crystal and so on. This can be a nightmare for any married woman: the knowledge that your husband has mistress(es). Maje turns out to be more of a philanderer than a husband, and this wrecks Toke’s life to a great extent.
Sadly, Toke’s life is littered with losses. She journeys through these losses from childhood with the tragic loss of her parents to adulthood with the loss of her lover. Every hieroglyph is haunted by hurt and heartbreak. This is a common tragedy of a determined dreamer, who longs for things in life, but life ironically steals from her the things she longs for and dreams of.
It is in the seventh chapter faraway in London that she learns life’s ultimate lesson: “nothing in my life was happening as I had imagined or dreamed.” This, I believe, is the climax of disillusionment, in which the innocence and deceptions of dreams blur and our eyes become open to reality. This disillusionment may be as a result of what Pastor Agwu talks about in the memoir: “when the dream isn’t ready for you yet.” And like Toke, we begin to wonder how true this is for we “never knew that it was possible for a dream to not be ready for the dreamer.” Maybe the pastor is right. Maybe Toke’s dream of a prince charming is not ready for her. Maybe Maje is not ready or right for her. Maybe. More maybes. However, the fact that this memoir recaptures the travails and torments of a determined dreamer is not a maybe.
My favourite chapter is chapter ten with the subheading “The Other Woman.” This chapter is graced with the strong silence of blankness. It may mean that Toke has no words for the other woman (in fact, other women). I like it because it reminds me of Alan Francis’s Everything Men Know About Women. In Alan’s book, you will find about 128 blank pages. To me, this is stylistically superb.
In writing this memoir, Toke has proven to be a brave and resilient woman. If there is a pedagogic point to be made, it is that a relationship roughened by “a roller coaster of emotions” can hardly blossom into a “fairy-tale ending”. It is this realization that makes this memoir a must-tell.