By Olumide Popoola 253pp. Cassava Republic.
Imagine growing up in North London as a college student dealing with the challenges of being raised by a single mother with no Idea of who your father is, as well as the mystery of constant bullying from neighbourhood wannabes who enjoy taunting Karl about his gender and his estranged father.
In Olumide’s King cross, life isn’t all smooth. Although there is an array of the expression of special bonds of friendship between Abu’s family and Karl’s mother, Rebecca; and that of Abu, Karl, Afsana and Nalini. The bond was something.
“When we speak of nothing” defines the power behind true friendship; this friendship was defined by empathy, love and at a point, betrayal.
Abu and Karl’s friendship was phenomenal. Two different teenagers poised with teenage challenges and all. While Abu had a family with a good base, Karl was living in the world without knowing the full story of his existence, his father, his origin. He was living in fantasy land. But hope is restored when uncle T visits London from Nigeria and tells the entire story Rebecca has kept from Karl for seventeen years of his life. Emotionally shattered, Karl decided to embark on the journey to Nigeria to meet his father; he didn’t get the reception he had hoped for from his father, but he met people who eventually changed his life forever in Port Harcourt.
Back in London, life isn’t smooth; all these happened while Karl was far away in West Africa. Abu had mustered courage to face the daunting task of breaking free from the shackles of timidity by squaring up to the challenge of getting Nalini whom he had always admired. The riots in London left the city in ruins and at a point, Abu was left fighting for his life.
In Nigeria, Karl was exploring the dusty streets and learning new experiences with the challenges in the Niger-Delta area, the shell lights and gas flares. The pidgin English and how awkward it sounded; the spicy nature of the food and the warmness of the people; all in a rush. While grappling with the dejection of his father and his new found guardian, John; Karl experiences love in a whole new dimension. Janoma, the unlikely love hero captures the heart of this frail seventeen year old, and it was the beginning of a love story.
Rebecca felt betrayed by boyfriend Godfrey who had allowed Karl leave the UK in search of his father whom he knew nothing about. She was also suffering from sclerosis which kept her out of the loop while they planned Karl’s trip to Nigeria.
The plot advances through each character’s story; along with dejection, betrayal and a quest to explain the power of true friendship, the story gathers momentum and emotional power.
This novel is a combination of wit, humour, generics and has a strong appeal to emotions. Olumide Popoola used proper British slang in almost every line and used a near perfect descriptive mechanism to describe emotions, feelings, scenes and situations as it unfolds in the story.