Book Title: The Kaya-Girl
Author: Mamle Wolo
Pages: 187
Publisher: Techmate Publishers Ltd.
Reviewer: Pelu Awofeso

There is no telling what a vacation has in store until you take one. As Abena, the heroin in Mamle Wolo’s “The Kaya-Girl” finds out, it can open up a whole new vista on life, the experience of which can last a lifetime.

While on vacation with her maternal aunt in Accra’s Makola Market, Abena meets and strikes a friendship with Faiza, a Kayayoo (someone who earns a living by helping shoppers carry purchases) and a young migrant from a village in Ghana’s northern region. Normally, they shouldn’t even be friends in the first place, because both girls are from two very different backgrounds and were raised worlds apart. Faiza has never had the benefit of Western education; Abena is in high school and is soon headed to the university.

But meet they did and close friends they became, both girls happiest only when in each other’s’ company and away from others’ prying presence. Before too long, they both rubbed off on each other; Abena helps the illiterate Faiza catch a glimpse of elementary science and Faiza lectures her naïve friend about local customs and the stark realities of life in the village, not to mention the delightful insight into Accra’s street snacks.

“One day I will come and visit you there,” Abena tells Faiza once inside her aunt’s shop when an opportunity presents itself.

“You’re most welcome,” Faiza answers, not sure whether or not to be excited at the prospect, “If only you will be comfortable at our place.”

The opportunity never comes, because soon afterwards someone steals money from the shop. Faiza is the chief suspect and she is sacked on the spot. And so what started as a pre-destined journey is halted rather abruptly; Faiza, shocked and devastated at being wrongly accused, flees the city; Abena, remorseful and powerless to defend her friend, returns to her parents’—and to her regular schooling. Both would never see each other again—well, until 15 years later, as full-grown women.

By a queer twist of fate, Faiza is already a doctor; and Abena, married to a man she met during the Makola episode, is expecting her second child. You can guess who was on hand to see the delivery through. The re-union is as emotionally packed as was the separation a decade and half previously.

Though “The kaya-Girl” is under 200 pages long, I had many hair-raising moments along the way. There are pages I read and felt a film of tears in my eyes. And I like the fact that the author gives away her fondness for Nigerian superstar artistes twin P-Square and the ‘gele’ headgear.

If anything, “The Kaya-Girl” shows in more ways than one that there is more to Nigeria-Ghana relations than football rivalry and coup statistics; Nigerians and Ghanaians are actually more kith and kin than both countries care to celebrate, a sad reality indeed. If you asked Faiza’s opinion on this, she is likely to exclaim: Woi!

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