BY OMIKO AWA
MARRIAGE, especially with Christianity, is a bond that goes beyond the signing of the dotted lines. It is a union once entered, according the tenets of the religion, does not encourage separation. In fact, it goes with the mantra, ‘it’s a secret parcel, whose content when unveiled becomes the couple’s cross till death do them part.’ Owing to this, those going into it are always admonished to seek the face of the Lord through fasting and prayers as well as counsel from their spiritual fathers and, for those already in it, to pray for the wisdom, grace and fortitude to handle its numerous problems as they arise.
Kemi Odutayo in her book, Secret Anguish, creatively uses the challenges arising from marriages to chart a way forward for lasting relationship and happy home while latently diffusing Christian values.
However, in playing out the roles, the author uses drama in a drama with her main characters being Steve and Mary, James and Bisi, Toun, Tina, Ife, Femi and others.
Steve and Mary were happily married until the children started coming. What that is expected to make them happier, bringing them closer to each other, turns out to be their splinter as Mary shifts attention from the husband to the children; to the extent that the lubricant of marriage — sex — becomes inactive.
Gradually, Steve withdraws into himself and from church activities. He begins to fraternize with his old friend, Segun, who introduces him to Tina whom he expects to fill in the vacuum created by the wife, Mary. But to Steve’s surprise, Tina is a born again – believer – and happens to know him during his student days in the university, when he was the president of Scripture Union. This revelation brings Steve back from the path of iniquity to develop platonic relation with Tina.
Though, Steve introduced Tina to Mary, his wife; Tina soon takes the better part of his time, to the extent of confiding secrets in her; a situation that almost wrecked havoc in his home.
Another character, James and Bisi before getting married had agreed that no relative of theirs would stay with them beyond their agreed time. Toun, who had lived with the brother before his marriage to Bisi has not only broken the rule, but has become a source of concern to the family, especially Bisi who feels she has encroached into her privacy and has become an embarrassment. Coming into James home, Bisi had expected, her husband to advise the sister to relocate to a different apartment, as she is mature to be on her own and has a good job. But that idea fell on deaf ears. To add salt to injury, Toun usually leaves the house chores for Bisi and always engages the brother in the discussion. This makes Bisi feel left out and unknown to her husband; the situation has created a gully, which gives her the leverage to nag and making the home unpleasant for him. Unlike Mary, she knows how to use her feminine wiles to make her husband listen to her.
In one of the nights Toun had unknowingly walked into her brother and the wife, who were deeply involved in foreplay in their sitting room; the intrusion had not only cut-off the fun, but also infuriated Bisi.
Knowing that her continual stay is causing a rift in the home, Toun moves her belongings to her friend’s place. Ife, a sassy city lady, welcomes her with open arms.
Published in 2008 by Me4 publication, Lagos, the 223-page book divided into 18 chapters does not leave out the singles and their lust. It pictures how the randy Femi in the name of marriage had sexual escapade with ladies, breaking their hearts and making them to live in regret.
Using Tina, Kemi, admonishes the youth to be futuristic, build their career, imbibe in godly virtues and wait upon the Lord for their life-partners.
With Secret Anguish, Kemi has achieved one of her main objectives of inspiring married couples to make their homes a happy place and to counsel intending couples on how to solve marital problems and live a fulfilled married life.
Though, a pastor’s wife, Kemi like the husband has written a sermon to be read by people, irrespective of religion and gender, who desire happy family life. And, it’s in fulfilling this aspect that the book could be seen as a mirror for the readers to re-examine themselves, as each character out plays the two extremes of human relationship and setting out solutions. This allows readers whose marriages are nose-diving to make amends and those with flourishing relationship to keep it up while admonishing the youths to hold on to their chastity till they are married.
Generally, Secret Anguish could be described as elixir of marriage, as it provides succour to secret pains of marriage, gives guidance to troubled relations, guides against the anxiety of singles to be married and proffers likely solutions to the fears of the youth in courtship.