Lizzie Damilola Blackburn’s debut novel introduces us to relatable singleton and career girl, Yinka, and the gaggle of modern-day Mrs Bennets that are her Nigerian mother and associated Aunties, intent on matchmaking and publicly praying for her to find a man in Yinka, Where is Your Huzband?
The Nigerian Accent Dictionary
Huzband (pronounced auz-band) noun
1. A male partner in a marriage e.g. Yinka’s younger sister, Kemi, is married to Uche
2. A non-existent man in a non-existent marriage whose whereabouts is often questioned, usually by Nigerian mums and aunties to single British Nigerian women e.g. So, Yinka. Tell me. Where is your huzband? Ah, ah. You’re thirty-one now!
Yinka wants to find love. Her mum wants to find it for her. She also has too many aunties who frequently pray for her delivery from singledom, a preference for chicken and chips over traditional Nigerian food, and a bum she’s sure is far too small as a result. Oh, and the fact that she’s a thirty-one-year-old South-Londoner who doesn’t believe in sex before marriage is a bit of an obstacle too…
When her cousin gets engaged, Yinka commences ‘Operation Find A Date for Rachel’s Wedding’. Armed with a totally flawless, incredibly specific plan, will Yinka find herself a huzband? What if the thing she really needs to find is herself?
We first meet 31-year-old Yinka at her younger sister’s baby shower. She’s flying solo, waiting for her best friend Nana to arrive and we immediately sense her anxiety and how exposed she feels. Her mother repeatedly misrepresents Yinka’s job, much to the latter’s annoyance and attempts to correct her. It’s also clear that she’s made to feel inadequate because there is no man in her life. Yinka’s apparent failure to secure a life partner is in stark contrast to the deemed success of her younger sister, Kemi, and the very reason family and friends have gathered together on the day we meet them.
Kemi sympathises with her big sister and only wants to see her happy but Yinka’s mother and her Aunties—something all Nigerian women older than Yinka, whether a blood relation or not, are called—have taken to praying for her. This often leads to the unforgiveably cringeworthy scenes we’re about to witness at family celebrations and other rather more public events. I couldn’t help but feel for Yinka and her woeful predicament, as if we’d landed in some shrill yet vibrant Austen retelling (albeit one where women now have a career), where mothers (and their women friends) honk and cackle around like that frantic goose, Mrs Bennet, badgering her daughters to find a husband—any husband (he doesn’t even have to be that suitable or someone you love)—lest they get left on the shelf. Which, as we all know, is THE WORST POSSIBLE FATE there is for a woman.
When her much-vaunted promotion turns into something altogether more disappointing, Yinka’s forced to take stock of other aspects of her life. By this point, I was right there with her, wanting to champion her and cheerlead her all the way through the trials and tribulations ahead. And, happily for Yinka, she has friends who are there for her within the pages of the book, notably nonchalant Nana, the aspiring fashion designer, and work colleagues, JoBrian, who sound like a couple but aren’t. There’s her wonderful confidant and career woman, Auntie Blessing, who offers more practical help and advice than prayer, younger sister, Kemi, her cousin, Rachel, and a gentle but real force for good from her past.
Yinka, Where is your Huzband? really resonated with me and very much felt like a story for the times we live in. It’s not only a novel about a young woman holding out for love, under immense pressure from her mother and associated Aunties, and even her wider community, off- and online. It’s about rediscovering who you are and refusing to settle for a pale imitation of your life, sticking to your principles, and putting in the work to discover who you are and what it is you want. I could relate to how Yinka settles for something and convinces herself that it’s only as much as she deserves or what she’s good at because it’s easier than unpicking what’s not working for her. Especially when you see what public humiliation, belittlement and sheer embarrassment she experiences and the effect that has on her self-esteem.
Yinka, Where is your Huzband? is a warm and witty novel about finding yourself and reclaiming your place in the world, and doing so on your own terms. It’s an incredibly fun and pacy story, equal parts winces and giggles, about one endearing young woman discovering her true self, finding her voice and not being afraid to use it. I loved meeting Yinka and am going to miss her. We had an absolute blast.
Yinka, Where Is Your Huzband? by Lizzie Damilola Blackburn is published by Viking on 31 March 2021. It is available as an audiobook, ebook and in hardback and you can pre-order it from Amazon UK (affiliate link), Bookshop.org (affiliate link), Hive or Waterstones.
My thanks to Lou Nyuar at the publisher for sending me the review copy and inviting me to take part in the blog tour, which runs until 6 April. Here are all the brilliant bloggers taking part: