Literature takes on three major forms, and more often than not, a writer who elects to express art in a particular form follows through until the last page of the work. It’s rare to see prose cozying up to poetry in a book, or an essay lying side by side with a play. These days however, writers are becoming more daring, unafraid to experiment with various art forms in the same body of work, and when readers see this, they cannot help but take notice. It’s easy to say that the rules are being broken, but then, there were no rules in the first place.
Tomi Adesina is a fiction blogger and screenwriter. A graduate of Microbiology, Tomi is the recipient of a number of awards, including Young Writer Of The Year at the 2015 Nigerian Writers Awards, and the 2015 Homevida Prize for “Feisty John” (a screenplay on cyber-bullying). She is the author of the e-book “Clueless”, and wrote the script for “Hakkunde”, a Nollywood box office hit starring Frank Donga.
“George’s Pieces Of Me” is a unique blend of prose and poetry, a mash-up not commonly attempted by creatives of decades past. In 102 pages, Tomi tries to explore the complexity of human existence, surfing across a number of themes including family, love, belonging, heartbreak and death.
This body of work is divided into two parts. In Book One, Tomi tells a love story in several doses of poetry. “Inception” dwells on the character’s birth, “Boy Meets Girl” talks about love at first sight, “The Middle” deals with a slowly crumbling marriage, “Bottles” addresses the character’s alcohol addiction, “Searching” shows recourse to religion, and “A Piece Of Me” sees the character coming to terms with the demise of the love of his life.
Book Two has Tomi move from specific to general, telling the stories of different people in short bites, and this time in her comfort zone (Prose). “Big Dreams” is about a young woman in Northern Nigerian who runs away from home and returns to bring education and health care, “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” explores a family’s switch in emotions at the news of a plane crash from anxiety to despair and then ecstasy all at once, “Paint The Sky With Tears” dwells on the story of a woman who won’t let a love interest’s terminal illness get in the way of experiencing happiness, and “Dear Nonso” is a letter to a cake-loving dead son. “The Man Who Killed Me” has to do with domestic abuse, “Saving Tejiri” shows a young lawyer fighting injustice in a small town, “Meet Me On Tuesday” speaks about enduring friendship that transcends lifetimes, “His Strings” is about a mentally challenged man’s musical strengths, and Tomi wraps out the show with “Dear Mum”, a boy’s letter to his mother who has been dead for years.
Where “George’s Pieces Of Me” is good, it is really good, nay, it shines. The first part of the book lays out a journey, and while there is not much by way of literary finesse with respect to the poetry, the lines are earnest, and there is enough to evoke feeling. Some of the stories pack their punch too; “Dear Mum” will move you to tears if you’ve ever lost a parent, “Paint The Sky With Tears” whips up all kinds of feels too, and “Meet Me On Tuesday” will cause you to exhale.
A number of the stories, however, leave you wondering if it is the same Tomi that often wows her large social media following with thrilling blog series; some of the narratives were pretty weak. “The Man Who Killed Me” could have used more depth, “Big Dreams” and “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” come off as pretty cliché, and “Saving Tejiri” was resolved too quickly. In general, Book Two leaves you wishing there was more detail, more suspense, more character development in most of the stories, and it hurts, because you know Tomi can do better, should do better, has done better.
“George’s Pieces Of Me” is a well thought out experiment, and in a way, nicely executed, but if Tomi’s fans look critically beneath the gloss, they just might feel hard done by. The book is an easy read, and lovable for significant portions, but it is like that date with an interesting individual which you really enjoyed, but which you are not sure whether you want a repeat of.
Jerry Chiemeke is a lawyer, author, editor and critic. His stories have been published in The Kalahari Review, Brittle Paper, Syn City and The Musty Corner. His features have also appeared in Pulse Nigeria, Viva Naija and True Nollywood Stories. He critiques African literature for Okadabooks, and he runs a personal blog at pensofchi.com where he writes fiction and creative non-fiction. A lover of travelling and finger foods, Jerry lives in Lagos.