Book Review: When You Were Everything by Ashley Woodfolk

Sistah Girls, I think we know that Joan Morgan is correct when she says that “sisterhood ain’t sainthood”; it can be hard. But you wouldn’t know it from watching all the movies about people who have stayed friends since uni or childhood, a lot of things can, and more times than we want, go wrong.

So, in the spirit of reflecting, I think you would appreciate Ashley Woodfolk’s When You Were Everything.

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The story captures the essence of women-friendships as a safe place for affirming each other. Cleo and Layla are the perfect bffs, with their Y.O.E (You Over Everyone) slogan, they are ride or die.

Interestingly, Woodfolk starts the story with a flashback, so right from the beginning, the cat’s out the bag, we know that the besties have broken up, they are now ex-best friends, and we can immediately see how that loss is affecting Cleo, (the protagonist of the story). So you find yourself getting sucked into the story because you want to know, what went down.

DISCLAIMER: This story does not revolve around the character assassination of one friend who has done something bad, making the protagonist appear blameless.

It really is just a story about two best friends who made mistakes. Cleo walks us through what went down and how it happened. It would be a monotonous read if this is the all in all of the story, so Woodfolk gives us more.

Personally, I think there is just a flavor that writing a story set in a bubbling city like New York gives, I mean it would explain why books like Sefi Atta’s Everything Good Will Come and Chibundu Onuzo’s Welcome To Lagos are such a hit.

Another thing that I really dig about the story is that it is layered, like a properly wrapped gift package, with each layer being well coordinated and leading back to the focus, the complexity of human relationships: the can’t live with them and can’t live without them feeling that everyone of us, Sistah Girl, know to be true about our relationship with friends and lovers.

Of course, the crust of the story is the broken friendship of Layla and Cleo, but theirs is not the only relationship coming undone, Cliff and Naomi (Cleo’s parents) are breaking up too. In the midst of all that is the budding friendship of Cleo, Sydney and Willa, and, the romantic relationship between Cleo and Dom.

I cannot even forget, how now! The musical numbers cited in this book be giving me life, as in ehn, just let me give Woodfolk her respect on that one. Plus, I can totally see that Woodfolk is a big Shakespeare fan, me, not so much, but she kinda made him look cool and on point in this work – “the band that seems to tie their friendship together will be the very strangler of their amity…What’s done cannot be undone”.

So, to cap it all, I think for me and everyone who has lost a friend, this story gives us the opportunity to reflect and make peace with it, and kinda just embrace what we have. I love Woodfolk for this book, she literally blessed the literary world with this piece about something so important yet not written about well enough.



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