Weekly Words about New Books in
Independent Bookstores

January 9, 2022
Different Women and Different Cultures, But Fraught Friendships Remain the Constant
Wahala by Nikki May. This debut novel from British-born and Nigerian-raised May immerses readers in the sometimes funny, often dark and always complicated lives of three Anglo-Nigerian best friends. Although bonded by their shared heritage and ages (mid-30s), the trio are in very different places in their lives. But they all prove to be susceptible to the lethally glamorous fourth woman who infiltrates their group.

Ronke wants happily ever after and 2.2. kids - good luck with that. Boo has everything Ronke wants, including a kind husband and gorgeous child. But she's frustrated, unfulfilled, and plagued by guilt. Simi is the one with the seemingly perfect lifestyle. No one knows she's crippled by impostor syndrome. Plus her husband thinks they're trying for a baby. She's not. Enter into the group the charismatic Isobel, who initally seems to be bringing out the best in each woman. But the more Isobel intervenes, the more chaos she sows, as cracks in the women's friendships begin to show up.

In her review for January's Indie Next list, bookseller Audrey Huang of Belmont Books, in Belmont, MA) wrote: "This slow burning thriller will have you compulsively turning pages, late into the night. At times, you will cheer for these women and their strong friendship, as well as hiss at their choices. This is women friendship at its best and worst and [about] how easily it can be fractured with subtle gossip in the guise of concern. These four English women of Nigerian descent are memorable and distinct and be prepared to crave company and food with your closest friends."
Fiona and Jane by Jean Chen Ho. Through a series of stories, not always in chronological order, Ho has created a compelling Asian American coming-of-age narrative that traces the lives and long-term friendship of two young Taiwanese American women as they navigate friendship, sexuality, identity, and heartbreak over two decades in the late 20th century.

Best friends since second grade, Fiona Lin and Jane Shen survive unfulfilling romantic encounters through their teenage years in Los Angeles - carrying with them the scars of their families' tumultuous pasts. When Fiona moves to New York, Jane remains in California and grieves her estranged father's sudden death. Their relationship strained by distance and unintended betrayals, the two float in and out of each other's lives, with the friendship serving as both a beacon of home and a reminder of all they've lost. 

In its starred review, Kirkus Reviews wrote, "Who knows you better: you or your best friend? . . . Ho's adept captures of childhood confusion, teenage angst, and adult malaise lend the stories a universality that is not undermined by her equally precise dissections of racial and sexual issues facing Fiona and Jane. The misogynistic dangers facing the girls as they stretch their high school wings in the gorgeous and nerve-wracking story 'Go Slow' echo throughout the work as a whole, with a particularly resounding tone in the devastating precis, 'Korean Boys I've Loved.' Readers will wish for a Fiona or Jane in their own lives."