‘Your Home or Your Life?’ Exploring themes in Chasing Butterflies by Yejide Kilanko.

So over time I have had to discuss domestic violence with different kinds of people and I have heard startling ideologies. It goes to say that patriarchy is still very much the order of the day. Reading Yejide Kilanko’s Chasing Butterflies made me heave a sigh of relief, like finally someone isn’t just writing about the domestic violence but she is exploring deep issues that we need to talk about.

The book is one that is a quick read but isn’t one that won’t leave you thinking. One of the statements made in the book and can be described as one with a misguided understanding is the one made by Titilope’s mother. “A good mother does not run from her child’s home. She stays and fights.” Titilope is constantly beaten by her husband Tomide every time he is upset by one thing or the other. In fact, any time he is challenged or questioned by his wife, he feels that his authority is not respected. For how long should she fight? At what point do we realise that the woman’s home is no longer a home but a dungeon of some sort?

We can’t keep insisting that women stick out their necks on chopping blocks because they want to remain the society’s ideal women who must be married to earn respectability.

Titilope is to cook at his every whim, obey his every command and she is practically treated as a servant who must obey her master or get a whooping. In one of Tomide’s anger escapades, He beats her so much that the little boy (their son T.J, age 4) calls 911 as taught by his teacher. Simply put, he saves his mother’s life. At this point, Titilope knows she has to move. This was no life for her.

The author shows clearly the entitlement that men feel they have over their wives and how society has raised men wrongly and this has led to the battering and even death of women at the hands of irresponsible men. Tomide having watched his father beat his own mother simply emulates what he has seen and learnt. His mother’s inability to also fight her way out or teach her son what the correct attitude of a man should be makes Tomide another version of Hulk Hogan.

One theme also worthy of mentioning is the strong support system the women characters in the book gave Titilope. She scaled through because of the likes of Bunmi, Sunbeam and Holly. Rather than women pulling one another down and berating one another, they should come together and help each other out of dire marriages.

Women must not be asked to choose their homes at the expense of their lives and no one should make excuses for a man who constantly beats his wife. There is absolutely no excuse. The constant narrative of ‘a man will change’ has held women down and like Vladimir and Estragon who were waiting for Godot in Samuel Beckett’s play (who never showed up), many women are waiting for their husbands to change. They hardly do. Some die as they wait.

The theme of female independence is also evident. Holly is an example of a woman who raises her son well enough on her own before she marries again. Titilope’s ability to rise above her challenges shows that women are stronger than they give themselves credit for. Women can be independent and dependent on one another at the same time. Men or rather good men must understand that a woman is strong and respect her strength. She will equally respect his. Respect should be mutual for peaceful coexistence.

The author’s style of writing is impeccable. Simple and undiluted in enunciating truths. Truths that many women should hear. One of which is a successful woman’s success does not necessarily depend on her husband but on her willingness and determination to make the best of her life in spite of challenges. Though, more glorious will it be if her husband helps her on her road to success and be a part of her success story and not be intimidated by it. Tomide only wanted his wife’s success because he wanted her to work and earn more for him. That shows his character as selfish, conceited and irresponsible.

The book is one that I recommend to anyone because it has style, depth and resonates with contemporary issues of our time. Though, I expected more in terms of plot content but, overall, it is a good book.

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