Wednesday, March 07, 2012


By Lisa De Nikolits
Publisher: Inanna Publications (September 30, 2011)

First readers, let me tell you that Wawa is a town in Ontario, Canada. As nonsensical as the title sounds, this is a book of serious self-discovery.

Twenty-nine-year-old Benny Chau has run away from her home in Sydney, Australia. Run really, really far away. After a disastrous review to her gallery show she had thought would bring her fame and a way to escape a job she hated, followed by the humiliating failure of her marriage, she fled to Toronto via some impressive stops. When she steps off the plane in Toronto, the tulips are in bloom and she thinks the city beautiful and friendly.

Benny decides to give Toronto a try and begins a journey to lose herself as far from Australia as she can. She misses her parents and her sister, Shandra, but bemoans the state of her life near them. She is jealous of her sister, although clearly Benny had more advantages. Benny has allowed her bitterness to shape her, define her, sinking further and further into drugs, alcohol, and bad boys.

In spite of all this, WEST OF WAWA is a fascinating book. I don’t approve of self-medicating, but don’t worry. Not to give a spoiler, but Benny’s story ends happily. After enduring bad buses, slow trains, and seedy traveling companions for 72 days, she finally reaches the end of her journey in Vancouver. Not all of it was bad, though. In addition to breathtaking scenery, Benny makes two friends, real friends, the kind who stick with you.

At then end of her journey, Benny has discovers her true self. Watching another woman reduced to begging, “Benny thought how easy it was to take a wrong turn in life – a turn where one thing led to another, and another, until one day you woke up and the face in the mirror belonged to no one you knew, no one you ever thought you’d know.”

WEST OF WAWA is about Benny’s internal journey while she engages in her external journey. Authors are told to avoid stories set in moving vehicles, that they are boring. Not so! Ms De Nikolits creates an exotic ride across Canada, each step exciting and eventful. And whether she stops over in a motel, hotel, hostel, or private home, Benny finds adventure.

I love Ms De Nikolit’s turn of phrase, such as describing Manitoba’s mosquitoes as “So big they could chew through leather trousers.”

Benny started out a selfish, bitter woman. Although I always liked her in this book, she ended up a person I can admire and respect. A talented, energetic person I might want for a friend.  She realized, with a small measure of pride, that the trip had taught her a couple of things, not the least of which was that she was a survivor.”

Don’t let that tidbit from near the end prevent your reading WEST OF WAWA. Benny’s is a fast-paced, intriguing journey.

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I was furnished a free copy of this book for an honest review.


Originally from South Africa, Lisa de Nikolits has been a Canadian citizen for eight years and has lived in Canada for eleven. She has also lived and worked in the United States, Australia, and Britain. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and Philosophy from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. As an art director, her magazine credits include marie claire, Vogue, Vogue Living, Cosmopolitan, SHE and Longevity. Her first novel, The Hungry Mirror, was published by Inanna Publications in 2010 and was awarded the ippy Gold Medal for literature on women’s issues in 2011. She currently lives and works in Toronto.

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