Where We End & Begin by Jane Igharo
For lots of Nigerian culture, for a class divide romance, for kind of frustrating characters
Star-crossed lovers get a second chance at romance when they’re reunited at a wedding in Nigeria, in a heartfelt novel from the acclaimed author of The Sweetest Remedy.
Dunni hasn’t seen her high school boyfriend, Obinna, since she left Nigeria to attend college in America. Before their devastating separation, they vowed to find their way back to each other one day.
Twelve years later, and their vow is a thing of the past. Dunni works as a geneticist in Seattle and is engaged to a man she doesn’t love but one her parents approve of. Her future is laid out for her, and everything is going according to plan until she returns to Nigeria for a friend’s wedding and runs into Obinna. The shy, awkward boy she loved as a teenager is now a sophisticated, confident man. Things have changed, but there’s still an undeniable connection between them.
As they rediscover each other, their days filled with desire and passion, Dunni is reminded of the beautiful future she once planned with Obinna. But when devastating secrets are revealed and the reckless actions of their past bring new challenges, she’s left questioning everything, including if the love that consumed her as a teenager is still worth holding on to.
Alright, here are my issues with it in a nutshell:
First and foremost, SHE IS ENGAGED FROM THE START. I hate that. I hate that she cheats and is like “oh I feel so guilty but also so in love with this guy that I’m going to do it anyway.” I’m not arguing that this isn’t a valid story to be told, or one that doesn’t or shouldn’t happen. I just hated reading about it because I can’t root for a cheater. She was doomed for me from the start.
► On that note…View spoilers
When she breaks it off with Christopher and tells him “Actually you DON’T love me” I find that really fucking annoying. Like, bitch, don’t tell me what I feel! But you know, on his behalf. So then to just have him meekly be like, yeah I guess you’re right, no hard feelings, have a nice life and essentially just give her Z E R O ramifications for what she did was extra frustrating. And WHY THE FUCK DOESN’T OBINNA CARE EITHER?? I mean sure he’s so in love and all that but damn she’s totally using him here. Ugh.
The conflict is frustrating because it’s just both characters being stupid. They each repeatedly talk about how they love each other to a crazy obsessive amount and NEED to be together. They also talk about the barriers they feel keep them from that. But the barriers they name are never explained well by either of them to the other, and it takes until the last chapters for Obinna to finally get his head out of his ass and say “Alright I’ll tell you the truth!” Like bro, why the fuck weren’t you ALREADY DOING THAT? Dunni isn’t much better, but that was an easy example.
This is told in dual timeline narratives with Obinna primarily narrating their youth, and Dunni primarily narrating their current adult selves. The younger versions seem like totally different people, which IS addressed and in some ways is the point, but it just felt too extreme to me. It was hard for me to believe that this girl became this woman even with everything she went through.
► View spoilers about a challenge Obinna faces
The scene with Obinna’s dad where they just barge in and yell at him then leave? That felt… personal. In a weird way. Would that have actually been a moment of reassurance, or closure, for either of them? It just felt like spite and anger which maybe it needed to come out, but it seemed… flat. Like that would have been a more impactful moment with echoing ramifications or some kind of follow up, but it happens and then they just drive off and never think about it again. Okay…
► I don’t think this is really a spoiler because it was very obvious in the “if a gun appears, it will be shot” kind of thinking (no there’s no gun just a metaphor), but I’ll spoiler tag it just in case… View spoilers
The blood oath conflict especially frustrated me. Dunni insisted on it, then later was all like “oh no what if I only love him because I’m forced to by the mystical unknown?” And look, I have no issue with the mystical unknown. My issue is with HER doing some flip flop on the whole thing and never acknowledging her part in creating the issue.
► And this is more obviously a spoiler, although once again it felt very predictable to me from the moment it was hinted at: View spoilers
That she has a daughter. Well, she has their daughter, rather. First of all, I get that as the story goes it’s hidden from narration to be a shock factor along with Obinna when he discovers it. However, it feels unbelievable that no one would ask about her daughter. Like her best friend, or grandmother, or anyone. It feels weird that never in her swirl of conflicting thoughts is that a factor for her apparently — that Obinna is her daughter’s father. The way it was handled at the end was overall fine I think, but considering it seems it was supposed to be a shock and I was not at all surprised made it hit a little impressively.
So okay, what did I like about this?
The parallels in the writing and scenes mirrored from past to present were nice. They were obvious, but I enjoyed it nonetheless when something from the chapter of their youth was mentioned in current times.
The language and culture of Nigeria, of course. That’s a lot of why I keep trying books by this author, despite being underwhelmed more than once now. But boy have I learned a lot and loved getting to see more of the characters.
That’s… probably it. This one had a lot of trouble for me, to be honest. Ah well. 😐
7 thoughts on “Review: Where We End & Begin by Jane Igharo”
Oh no, what a bummer! I’ve had my eye on this one not only because that cover is gorgeous but because I’ve heard good things about this author’s books. Although to be fair I haven’t heard anything about this one until your review. The fact she’s engaged and stays engaged is yucky to me though—I just hate the cheating thing in general but the characters also sound frustratingly unlikeable… Thanks for the review!
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Yeaaaahhhh. I might read her other book because I do really love the culture and learning about it, and I have recently begun to learn more about Nigerian history so it’s fun to see it in books and have more context. BUT, I certainly won’t go into them expecting to be blown away. 🤷♀️
I love the cover! And the setting. But the “starting to date someone while engaged to someone else” trope is one of my LEAST favorites, so I think I would probably not enjoy this story.
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Yes, her covers are usually gorgeous! I should look up who the artist is. The cheating really put a damper on this for me too :l oh well, there are other books to read I guess!