Review: 'Yinka, Where is Your Huzband' funny and big-hearted

“Yinka Where Is Your Huzband” is the first novel written by Lizzie Damilola Blackburn

NEW YORK -- “Yinka, Where Is Your Huzband” by Lizzie Damilola Blackburn (Pamela Dorman Books)

Yinka Oladeji is a 30-year-old, Oxford educated, British Nigerian woman with a good job, living in London who happens to be single. Her accomplishments should carry weight within her family but unfortunately, the fact that she's not married is a big source of worry and tension for her elders. The novel opens with Yinka attending her sister's baby shower when both her mother and aunt lead a group prayer to find Yinka a “huzband" — slang for “a non-existent man in a non-existent marriage whose whereabouts is often asked.”

When at the same party Yinka's cousin announces her engagement, it's all too much. Yinka begins to formulate a plan called Operation Wedding Date to ensure she does not attend that wedding solo. There will be no more public prayers for Yinka. She compiles a spreadsheet with tasks and, of course, a deadline (which routinely gets thrown out and revised.)

As time ticks by, Yinka gets more desperate and self-critical. There are dizzying subtasks to her tasks to improve her hair, figure, cooking and knowledge of the Yoruba language. Yinka spends money she doesn't have and even begins to question the color of her skin. To make matters worse, her friends are noticing a change in her, and it's not a good thing. Yinka is so caught up in conforming to how and what she thinks she needs to be, she's not being a good friend and dismissive of real, potential suitors.

“Yinka, Where is Your Huzband” is more than a book about a woman looking for a man. It addresses themes such as female friendships, Black beauty standards and religion. This is not a romance novel, unless the journey to self-love qualifies.