Bridges will be burnt, and loved ones will be lost on this path of candour on which she was about to embark; she knew this. But maybe it was for the best. Maybe, it would serve the justice they all deserved. - Bridges are for Burning, page 253.
I have always had mixed feelings about toxic friendships, and my major questions while reading this book centre on the characters’ friendships. Seriously, what really is friendship?
Using an opening line that can capture the attention of a mindful reader, the author is able to arouse curiosity while simultaneously motivating you to continue reading, and you are immediately drawn into the story. Bina Idonije, in her debut novel, Bridges are for Burning, takes us on a journey of three women bound together by family ties and life-long friendship but harboring secrets of their own.
Set in Lagos, the contemporary fiction that won the 2022 SprinNG Women Authors Prize examines the relationship between friends, lovers, and spouses through the eyes of Gigi, Fifi, and Alana. In addition to showing the complexity of female friendships, this book also explores themes of love, betrayal, redemption, womanhood, domestic violence, and infidelity.
Gigi is a Digital Marketing Strategist and Social Media Presence Curator who makes an unwise choice on one flirty night that sets her life on a collision course she never bargained for. Alana, Gigi’s best friend, is an internationally renowned fashion designer friend with a seemingly perfect life. To crown it all, She is the girlfriend of Benjamin Halal, one of Lagos’s most eligible men. Fifi, Gigi’s elder sister, is a widely-known fitness instructor who lives in a sprawling mansion in Lagos with her aristocratic husband, whose physical abuse pushes her into the arms of her younger lover.
I love that the characters in this book are relatable, as the daily struggles of individuals from home to society and relationships are portrayed through the lens of the characters. The theme of female friendship is deeply explored and represented, especially between Gigi and Alana. I recently saw a tweet where someone stated that female friendships could be a hit or a miss. But if it’s a hit, it’s glorious, and it’s like God is dashing you more sisters. The friendship portrayed in this book was definitely not a hit.
Like I wrote, what exactly is friendship, especially in today’s world where the term “best friend” is thrown around casually? Gigi and Alana’s friendship was mixed feelings for me. Although we see the ladies supporting each other, especially concerning their businesses, asides from that, the friendship is shallow. It was void of vulnerability, characterised by toxicity and identity crisis, and we are reminded that, like oil and water, friendship and secrets don’t mix well. Alana takes every opportunity to slam Gigi for her looks. On Gigi’s part, she tends to fade into the background whenever Alana is around.
“Do you know the countless times you made me feel like I was not beautiful enough, the times that you made me hate my own body as you compared it with yours? I questioned my choices, believing that they were inferior compared to yours.” Page 286.
Also, I felt that Fifi’s story was disjointed. I didn’t see a good connection between the other characters and Fifi. I expected to see the friends come together for brunch. I expected to see Fifi and Gigi interact as sisters. However, their individual and romantic lives are the main attraction here. The story also explores the subject of marriage through the lens of Fifi and Alana. Fifi’s marriage to a wealthy older man highlights marriages where the husband controls and treats the wife as an object of possession. What follows is a series of emotional and physical abuse, where the wife is forced to seek the love, respect, and validation she needs outside the walls of her home, and in the case of Fifi, from a younger lover.
The drama in Bridges are for Burning will keep you turning the pages, and as the story unfolds, it reveals skeletons in the closet of the characters. Everyone has something to lie about, and you have a web of lies, blackmail, and secrets. One thing that stands out is the author’s ability to build tension, raise key questions, and keep the reader interested in the story. Hence, readers will find themselves asking, what did Gigi do exactly? What will Fifi’s husband do when he finds out? Why is Gigi anxious to bump into her best friend’s PA? What is Alana afraid of? The feeling is like an electrical charge that creates a buzz at specific intervals for the reader and keeps you guessing what will happen next. When you feel you have hit the nail, you soon discover the story is just starting. Hence, Bridges are for Burning is an intriguing story with an erratic ending you never see coming.
Another significant element in the story-telling is Bina’s ability to make the main characters mysterious by giving them complex layers with unique attributes, flaws, strengths, and weaknesses. This element makes the characters relatable, as we are reminded of the fallibility of humans. Bina’s book touches on various issues, and you will likely miss some underlying messages in the book. The story introduced characters that could have been omitted and events with no real depth or connection to the story. Despite this, the author’s excellent writing compensates for this flaw with just the right amount of suspense and an unexpected turn of events.
One of my takeaways from this story is the burden that comes with secrets. It is how we stack up lies to keep a secret hidden and lose our peace of mind. It reminded me of the poem titled, Secrets, in Her Head Was a Spider’s Nest by Tolu Akinyemi:
The secret about secrets
is their terrible seams
you are tacking it here
it’s bursting loose there
it’s bursting loose here
you are tackling it there.
Till you are frantic
like a pope who has dropped
a condom at the altar.
It’s the secret about secrets;
your sins will find you out.
Bridges are for Burning is a well-crafted novel filled with drama, suspense, and a clever twist at the end. The characters remind us that some friendships have expiry dates, which is okay. However, as the characters deal with the aftermath of their choices, redemption is not guaranteed. For some, a new beginning comes from another beginning’s end.
5/3/2023 01:07:53 am
I like how this review not only highlights the high points of this book but also it's low points.
8/3/2023 04:15:47 pm
Awesome Review. This book is certainly a must read for everyone! Friendship is a necessary ship we must all sail on in the journey of life. How to utilizes friendship is key! A friend in need is a friend indeed. Thank you Ilerioluwa. This is mind-blowing!
Amobi Chisom Dorin
11/3/2023 10:31:20 am
A brilliant review
11/3/2023 05:20:13 pm
Your review makes me want to grab the book as soon as possible
16/3/2023 12:01:10 pm
I have not read this book but the way it was reviewed, makes me want to get a copy and see the drama within. I liked how she carefully analyzed everything; the flow of words is peccable. And the sprinkle of Tolu Akinyemi's poem drives the point about secret home.
28/3/2023 10:51:15 am
this review is everything, it makes one look forward to reading and enjoying the book. It points out the strengths and weaknesses of the book without downplaying either. Kudos
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