If Hearts & Homes by Tomi Adesina had been a movie, I imagine Laleh’s Some Die Young wafting into the tear & tissue ending, making a fountain of the tears that would colonise the body in chills & spills.
Aisha tried, Diana cried, & Micheal died in a local installation of Thomas Carlyle’s rather grim remark: “of the hearts of men are dens and depths that stretch to hell”.
Of a memory now sandwiched in newer demons and thus, collective amnesia, Tomi reminds us of a sharp piece in the mosaic of what it is to be human: the capacity to act with carnivorous soullessness.
The story spins, in its innermost concentric circle, around Micheal, Diana, and Aisha. Micheal, sharing with Aisha an Hercules complex, is a Major General who meets devilry with daredevilry; dying on the second pass at recovering the abducted girls.
Aisha is a teenage student with sights on being a Doctor, who would later set it on the glint of death’s scythe.
Half-wishing to be alive, she clinched the pyrrhic victory of freedom – her fellow escapist friend, Hadiza, bled to death from a gunshot wound – in a confluence of luck and cleverness. Her brother, Ahmed, from the search and rescue party, would come to collect her by the roadside, before being crossed out in a crossfire the next day.
Because of the lavish love Micheal’s wife had for him, and yearning that naturally flowed & followed from it, I would like to call her Diana of Denial. Separate from forgetting the life of paused breaths she had signed up for by marrying a soldier, Diana threw in a war of worry on both occasions Micheal geared to go into Boko Haram’s den. And who wouldn’t, right? Some things are best not left to imagination(if possible), like the whereabouts of your lover in a house of horrors. Imagination, as we know it, can be an unsettling hype man.
While it fronts as historical fiction, Hearts & Homes is an immutable relic from the museum of the Nigerian experience fast converting into history. Once more, Tomi Adesina’s signature simplicity sweeps through, telling a story of love, family, sacrifice, and iniquity.
The characters are relatable without being ordinary, though some may wonder if Micheal and Diana’s love life wasn’t bordering on the surreal or wishful. Micheal, in writhing pain, lying on the battlefield with half-escaped consciousness, wriggles ear plugs to his ear to tune in to his wife’s radio show. The second time he does this, he would supplant the terror of gunshots, with Diana’s soothing voice, but just as quickly breath his last.
Hearts & Homes at once is a rendering of the two sides of Andre Gide’s quote: “history is fiction that did happen; fiction is history that might have happened”, so it punches above its weight; (being a novella) punching the heart, punching history, and punching a hole into the dualities of human nature.
By all means, a must read.
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