Faith, God, Merfolk (or mammy water as we call them locally), adventure, love, and all the trappings of African folklore make Weeping Cherry an adult, urban fantasy novel to dig into, though it took author Kemi Santos-Omanukwue almost two decades to put it together.
Once upon a time, a ten-year-old girl wrote a story about a vampire falling in love with a human girl. Almost twenty years later, she and her sister watched a movie called Twilight. If you were not a ‘Twihard,’ Twilight follows the story of a vampire who falls in love with a human girl.
Kemi Santos-Omanukwue was the ten-year-old girl. So how does a ten-year-old girl come off knowing about falling in love and vampires? “I watched the movie, Interview With a Vampire, a little too young. I watched Robin of Sherwood, and I think every seven-year-old in Nigeria at that time knew that Robin Hood was in love with Lady Marian. All the cartoons with Barbie and Ken, Beauty and the Beast, 101 Dalmatians, Lady and the Tramp, Aladdin and Jasmine, Romeo and Juliet…all these cartoons and books created an impression on me.”
Although Kemi started her writing adventures with Weeping Cherry at the age of ten years, a comment from a schoolmate two years later made her abandon the story and not look back. “I was writing, when someone saw me and mocked what I was doing, describing it as unserious. I took it to heart and I never picked up a pen again.”
After closing that chapter of her life, Kemi focused solely on her studies and turned to forging a career in law. She is a lawyer and a member of the Nigerian Bar, and a Certified Paralegal (Member of the Law Society of Upper Canada).
When the hands of death hit close to home, it was time to reopen the closed chapter and continue from where she left of. “A series of losses occurred in my life. My dad and my maternal grandma died, and the last conversations I had with them were about regrets. I asked them if they had any regrets. My dad told me his, and my grandma said she had none. I found that amazing. She said she did everything she wanted to do. I refused to let the story in my heart die after that.”
That was all the push she needed. “The moment I put my fingers to my keyboard, I wrote almost a thousand pages in two months. I had to divide the story into three parts.”
In the euphoria of her regained love, Kemi put together Weeping Cherry, a story which revolves around Meredith Hart’s quest for the truth after she discovers that she has been lied to her entire life by her mother.
The synopsis of the book reads thus: When fifteen-year-old Meredith Hart decided it would be best to disobey her mother by taking a school trip to Ireland, she never imagined what the repercussions were going to be. A good grounding would have been foreseeable but nothing that would mean paying with her life, uncovering her hidden family history, and so much more. She delves into the world, only a few story books had told her about. She confronts her conflicting nightmares and tries to live, love, and save what she now knows of her family.
By Syreeta E. Akinyede