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Reviews of A Kind of Madness by Uche Okonkwo

A Kind of Madness

by Uche Okonkwo

A Kind of Madness by Uche Okonkwo X
A Kind of Madness by Uche Okonkwo
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    Apr 2024, 224 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Elisabeth Cook
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About this Book

Book Summary

A searing, unflinching collection of stories set in Nigeria that explores themes of community expectations, familial strife, and the struggle for survival.

A teenage girl from a poor family is dazzled by her rich, vivacious friend, but as the friend's behavior grows unstable and dangerous, she must decide whether to cover for her or risk telling the truth to get her the help she needs. A young woman and her mother bask in the envy of their neighbors when the woman receives an offer of marriage from the family of a doctor living in Belgium—though when the offer fails to materialize, that envy threatens to turn vicious, pitting them both against their community. And a lonely daughter finds herself wandering a village in eastern Nigeria in an ill-fated quest, struggling to come to terms with her mother's mental illness.

In ten vivid, evocative stories set in contemporary Nigeria, Uche Okonkwo's A Kind of Madness unravels the tensions between mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, best friends, siblings, and more, marking the arrival of an extraordinary new talent in fiction and inviting us all to consider the question: why is it that the people and places we hold closest are so often the ones that drive us to madness?

Excerpted from "Nwunye Belgium," the first story in the debut story collection A Kind of Madness by Uche Okonkwo

Udoka was disappointed to find that her prospective in-laws' house wasn't two stories tall, with a uniformed guard and a big gate to keep out prying eyes. But though not as impressive as Udoka had imagined, it was still a better house than her mother's. It was painted, for one, and the corrugated roof wasn't coming apart with rust.

Udoka understood exactly what this visit was. When her mother had come home two weeks ago from her trip to Orlu, where she'd attended the burial of a distant relative, singing about God's rain of blessings, Udoka had known that some-thing very good had happened.

"You remember my friend Marigold, who lives in Orlu?" her mother began as she unpacked her bag. "I went to visit her and she told me something."

Udoka waited as her mother took out yet another item from her bag: a kitchen towel, a souvenir from the funeral. She handed it to Udoka.

"What did ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

What all of the narratives have in common is that they vividly highlight the twisted machinations and mysteries of everyday lives. They uncover the bizarre notions that people and communities are compelled to accept as shared currency, the sinister controlling forces that exist beneath the surface of supposedly innocent and normal interactions. With its meticulously crafted language and storytelling, A Kind of Madness is quiet but bold, a striking and confident debut...continued

Full Review Members Only (690 words)

(Reviewed by Elisabeth Cook).

Media Reviews

Chicago Review of Books
Vivid... . In addition to striking a perfect balance between humor and heartbreak, A Kind of Madness shows incredible wiseness on the complexity and at times maddening nature of loving our family, our friends, and our home.

Debutiful
Amazingly written characters in unforgettable settings. Okonkwo's writing is transformative.

One Story
Okonkwo's writing is both lyrical and direct, capturing the nuances of emotion with honesty and compassion. A Kind of Madness invites us to confront our own biases, question societal norms, and ultimately recognize our humanity.

Write or Die
Vivid, evocative... . marking the arrival of an extraordinary new talent in fiction.

Oprah Daily
This debut short-story collection features 10 stories set in present-day Nigeria, all concerned with madness―both the literal madness of mental illness as well as the unruliness of outsize emotions like envy, shame, and desire.

Booklist
Surprising, illuminating, and deeply human.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Okonkwo has a Chekhovian eye for the tangle of internal motivations and assumptions that steer her characters... .Readers will be eager for more of Okonkwo's artful writing.

Author Blurb Chigozie Obioma, author of An Orchestra of Minorities
To read Uche Okonkwo's A Kind of Madness is to have an experience: of complex characters grappling with life's many troubles, of a robust culture, of history, of the battle between the domestic and the public, and all the big themes of life woven together. Like Jhumpa Lahiri, Okonkwo's mastery of the form is as rich as some of the short story's best practitioners and deserves every recognition it is sure to get.

Author Blurb Chinelo Okparanta, author of Harry Sylvester Bird
Uche Okonkwo's voice is absorbing. I was immersed in the familiar world of these tender, playfully haunting, darkly funny stories. Okonkwo is a writer to watch.

Author Blurb Sidik Fofana, author of Stories from the Tenants Downstairs
Touched my heart. Uche Okonkwo's stories are among the very best.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Sickle Cell Disease

Normal round blood cells under a microscope along with a sickle cell which is shaped like a bananaIn the story "Milk and Oil" from Uche Okonkwo's collection A Kind of Madness, Soty, a girl befriended by the main character Chekwube, has sickle cell disease. This fact is revealed to Chekwube slowly through certain habits and rituals that seem part of a foreign and sometimes strangely privileged world: Soty avoids the sun, drinks a glass of milk every day, and receives oil massages at home.

Sickle cell disease (SCD) is an inherited blood disorder affecting the hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells. The hemoglobin of people with SCD causes cells to be formed in a way that prevents them from effectively carrying oxygen to tissues. This results in the blockage of blood vessels and the movement of blood, and can cause a number of ...

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