Title: FOREST GIRL
Author: Empi Baryeh
Genre: Multicultural Romance, Africa
Length: Full-length novel
Michael Badu was an ass.
Whew! Okay, had to get that out… I’m better now.
The premise of what would happen if a modern man was forced to accept an arranged marriage got my attention quickly. While I’m not from a culture or have a family tradition of such things, I’ve always felt sorry for the perspective wives because they had little… or NO say in whom they were to marry. So, let’s put the shoe on the other foot! HA!
I felt bad for Michael in the beginning. Away for ten years getting an education and honing his agricultural skills, he even misses his father’s funeral. When he finally returns to his village, his mother informs him of his late father’s dying wish—for Michael to marry… and he picked out the girl.
Michael was furious, and I was right there with him. Marry someone he didn’t know? Who does that? Oh, cultures who believe in arranged marriages.
Tradition was a major part of this read, and it didn’t take long to understand its importance or significance. However, Michael was willing to ignore the tradition in favor of his personal freedom, or at least he tried to. He wasn’t prepared for the lengths his family were willing to go to see his father’s dying wish honored.
My heart went out to Michael’s uncle, Sekyerε, for his unenviable position as never being the ‘accomplished’ son, but still—seeing Michael married increased his social position, so I had no problem with Michael continuing to resist. But, mercy, when his mother took to her sickbed, I was through. Time to plan a wedding.
Yet, while all of this back and forth went on, Esi Afriyie, the intended bride was told nothing. She didn’t find out until after the families had decided.
So, why, again, am I feeling sorry for Michael?
Of course, since Esi’s been secretly in love with Michael for most of her love, the marriage isn’t a problem for her… she’s getting her dream man!
But marriage to Michael was not a dream. While he was ‘drawn’ to Esi, there was also Lena (UGH!), the noncommittal girlfriend, and ‘Forest Girl’, the ragged girl he’d met in the woods.
Forest Girl. A brief look into her eyes while helping her cut wood and Michael’s world is knocked off its axis. So much so, he’s willing to marry to make his mother happy and string Lena (UGH!) along a while longer until he can find this soulmate again. Forest Girl will complete him.
I rolled my eyes hard through six chapters as Michael wallowed in self-pity… and male entitlement. Esi was sweet, kind, and beautiful, but he couldn’t love her… she wasn’t Forest Girl. Lena was intelligent and sophisticated but not interested in commitment… and she wasn’t Forest Girl. Seriously, Michael?
While she was prepared to be a good and faithful wife, Esi refused to be a disrespected doormat, and this read went in a new direction.
Hello? Michael? This is Reality Check!
And if Esi’s shift in attitude wasn’t enough, Michael’s best friend, Osei, was right there to call him on his crap! “Go to the dead and sue your father!” I screamed! Go, Osei!
In the end, Michael had to remove his pride and ego from the equation to see what had always been right in front of him. NICE! Still not sure how I feel about Michael, but as long as Esi is happy, I’m good!
Forest Girl is an enjoyable read, steeped in Ghanaian culture and tradition, (they drink a LOT of water). Emotions run high and there are some intense scenes, but the author did a masterful job of pulling it all together in the end and leaving me with a smile, and you’ll smile too! Take this journey.
Esi Afriyie has been in love with Michael Yaw Badu since childhood. When he receives a scholarship to study in America, all hope seems lost … until he returns to Ghana ten years later. An arranged marriage contracted by their families makes her dreams come true, but does the reality of being Mrs. Michael Badu live up to the fantasy?
Michael may have married Esi, but he is in love with someone else—Forest Girl, a mystery woman he encountered just once in the forest. His heart belongs to her, and he doesn’t need his beautiful wife awakening his carnal desires. He is even willing to sacrifice his marriage for another encounter with Forest Girl.
Reality is not what either Esi or Michael imagined. Esi is disillusioned; Michael feels trapped.
Will Michael give in and allow his heart to discover a love that was always meant to be before it’s too late?
He fell in love with her at first sight,
but didn’t recognize her when he saw her again.
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