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When love is not enough

When love is not enough

By Olukorede Yishau

There are people who believe that love overrides a multitude of sins. I am not one of them. And one sin which I believe love should never override is a man and woman choosing to get married when they know they will give birth to kids who will live all the days of their lives in pain, tears and eventually die, after time and resources have been wasted trying to manage the avoidable situation.

The pain of raising kids who cannot play in the rain with their mates and do other naughty things kids do is better imagined than experienced. The experience is hell!

Join me on this journey started by Jude Idada with his Nigeria Prize for Literature-winning book ‘Boom Boom’ and you will understand me better.

‘Boom Boom’ is narrated by Osaik, an eight-year-old who is one of two children born of the marital union of JJ and Erese. The other child is a daughter nicknamed ‘Boom Boom’, and is also not the sister Osaik had hoped for due to no fault of hers.

Osaik discovers that his mother and sister, whom he had pestered his parents to have because he was desperate for a playmate, are always sick and in severe pain. His inquisitive nature leads him to find out that his father and mother should never have got married. Reason: His father has the AC genotype and his mother is SS, meaning she has the sickle cell anaemia disease. The couple’s luck produces Osaik, with the AS genotype. Their second attempt yields a daughter with the SC genotype, a milder form of the sickle cell disease, but which also comes with sorrow and tears.

The marriage that should have been filled with joy is populated by sadness and its cousins. Love, which should be a beautiful thing, becomes torturing and the marriage institution the opposite of what it should be.

JJ takes Boom Boom to London to try out a new form of treatment, which is expected to free her from pain and liberates her from a life of inhibitions. There he receives a phone call, which shatters his world, his worst fear about his wife has come to pass: At 30, the Grim Reaper claims its own. He is now left with a healthy Osaik and a sick but hopeful Boom Boom. Will she live or will she leave?

Though presented as a children book, ‘Boom Boom’ is a cross over book that will easily attract adult readers. Its dramatic and fast-paced nature is enough to soak anyone in the world of loss, faith, hope, the limits of love, sacrifice, friendship, loyalty and ties. With agony, relief, anxiety, serenity, despair and hope dancing on the pages of this book, it will without effort evoke emotional response.

Hiding under the voice of a child, Idada provides all the medical information about the disease and its management and eradication. The child-narrator offers Idada the latitude to give vital information in an engaging and entertaining manner and ultimately succeeds in modifying behaviour and shaping opinion.

Idada’s use of Kompa, Osaik’s dog, is very creative. Osaik can read the dog’s inner thoughts and translate the thoughts to words. It is the dog who describes their mother’s passing as “…a star in the sky looking down at (them)… ready to answer (their call) …anytime …” The dog also gives the book the magical realism touch and will sure make it more appealing to kids. Imagine a dog that can talk! And when the dog talks, it also brings solutions to challenges being faced by the family. Who will not like such a dog?

Characterisation is top notch in this award-winning work. Descriptive narration is exotic and delivers vivid imageries— helping the reader to feel the pain of the characters and absorb the messages therein.

With a suspense-filled narration, Idada sheds light on this challenging health condition like no work of fiction has done.

The themes covered in the book include love, sickle cell, its symptoms, its challenges, the choice of spouses, stigmatisation and a possible cure for the sickle cell anaemia.

You need to see the trouble of the family in this book to appreciate the fact that no one should get married without knowing their genotype. Of course, there are some lucky couples and this luck also has a limit. For instance, I know of a couple who are both AS and they have two children who are also AS. A third try may produce a child with the SS genotype. Ordinarily, this marriage should not have been consummated. Someone with an AA genotype is free to marry any other genotype. Someone with an SS genotype marrying anyone other than someone with AA is an invitation to pain and sorrow.

There is another issue I must point out. I have heard the case of a guy who lied to his girlfriend that he was AA because he wanted to marry her badly. The woman was AS. So, when the guy claimed to be AA, she felt the coast was clear. It took them having a baby with the SS genotype for the husband to confess. This was after she had threatened the doctors for saying her baby was SS. So, do not just take your partner’s words for it. Aside this guy who deliberately lied, I know of another person who just assumed he was AA. When his partner asked, he told her he was AA. She was AA and was not really bothered. A few days to their wedding they had to conduct a series of tests because the church insisted on it. That was when he found out he was AS. Imagine if the wife-to-be was also AS! They would have been walking a tightrope.

My final take: No one should marry because of love alone. Love is good, sweet and beautiful but it is not enough. A marriage consummated without the dangers of sickle cell anaemia taken into cognisance does not make sense. Love will not be enough to dry the tears when they start cascading down over constant sickle cell crisis and possible loss of children to sickle cell anaemia.


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