Ties That Tether by Jane Igharo is a beautiful, emotional and thought-provoking rom-com that touches on topics such as immigration, Nigerian culture, love, family, balancing multiple cultural identities, and the importance of putting your needs first by living a life that feels true to you.
At 12 years old, Azere’s father passes away and her last words to him include a promise that she will marry a Nigerian man and help preserve her family’s culture- even after they’ve moved to Toronto. To help hold Azere accountable to this promise, her mother is insistent on constantly setting her daughter up with eligible Nigerian men- men that Azere wants nothing to do with. After another one of these dates going horribly wrong, Azere finds herself in a hotel bar enjoying the company of an incredibly attractive white man named Rafael Castellano. Rafael is in town from NY for a job interview and just as quickly as they hit it off, their encounter turns in to a one night stand. A few weeks go by and as fate would have it, Rafael ends up getting hired at Xander, the company that Azere works at. What started out as a one night stand begins to develop into something much more serious and complicated, and Azere is torn between the need to please her mother’s wishes by marrying a Nigerian man and her growing feelings for Rafael. When her fears begin to get the best of her, she worries that being Rafael will somehow make her less of a Nigerian and compromise her identity. Is it possible for Azere to betray the promise she made to her father long ago and give in to the happiness that Rafael provides her? Or will she continue to remain complacent in living the unsatisfying life her mom has planned for her?
This book was a really quick read (I finished it in one day) and I loved the depth of various thought provoking topics that are touched on throughout this book. I was very intrigued by things I learned about Nigerian culture in this story and really loved the fact that Jane Igharo unintentionally implemented personal aspects of her life into this book. In the acknowledgments, she mentions that she unconsciously wrote her family into this book and her statement made my heart swell:
“Christina is my hilarious sister, Precious. Jacob is my kind brother, Divine. Chapter forty-three- the shortest chapter and dearest to my heart- is dedicated to my father, Fred. He died before I knew him, yet he found a place in this book somehow.”– Jane Igharo, Ties That Tether
I also empathized with Azere’s character so much and was heartbroken over the emotional back and forth she was going through in regards to respecting her Nigerian culture and her growing feelings for Rafael- her struggle felt incredibly authentic and gave me all the feels.
There are a few things that I would have loved to see more of that could have made this story even stronger. First, I wish that there were more details about the relationship development between Azere and Rafael. I felt like I wasn’t completely convinced that Azere and Rafael were perfect for one another simply because I didn’t have enough of a view into their relationship and felt that there wasn’t enough strong chemistry between them felt like it was hard to truly fall in love with them as a couple. I also would have loved more of a backstory for Azere’s parents so that I could learn even more about their backgrounds and culture. I feel that if the book was written from multiple POV’s, I could’ve learned about and loved the characters so much more.
Overall, Ties That Tether was a really enjoyable debut novel and I look forward to reading more by Jane Igharo in the future! One of my favorite lines from the story that sums up this book well is “let go of the life you’ve planned and accept the life waiting for you….” Thank you so much to NetGalley and Berkley Publishing Group for gifting me this eARC in exchange for an honest review!
BEER RECOMMENDATION: Ties That Tether by Jane Igharo is best paired with Fancy Papers by Cigar City Brewing. Fancy Papers is an enjoyable fruit-forward Hazy IPA brewed with Strata, Sabro and Idaho 7 hops 🍻