Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Owusu's impressionistic debut follows a young man of Ghanaian descent who comes of age in contemporary London. K, the narrator and an abused foster child, describes the poverty he faces as a member of the Black working class and his experiences in school, where he is alternately invisible and an object of fascination by classmates. Noting his response to the film The Color Purple, he reflects on how he "wrote Celie out of her story and added her to mine." Such is the connection he has with her despair. K is on a downward spiral shaped by riots, his younger brother's violent crimes, and self-harm (his drinking and pill taking exacerbate his suicidal thoughts). Eventually, he's diagnosed with bipolar disorder and gets treatment at a mental health facility. Owusu's prose is low on concrete details as to what's going on, but it features vivid passages that range from poetic ("My side of the bed is still tender with my silhouette") to musical ("I arrived at this ailment with no one trailing, no roses twirling"). It amounts to a short, sharp, and stinging tone poem that the reader won't want to put down. (June)
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Review by Library Journal Review
DEBUT Coming from Ghana to London as a small boy, K, the narrator of this short novel, does not have the best start in life, as he's sent from his parents' home into foster care and then out again. Returning home, he is welcomed with familiar foods and Ghanaian music into a community of aunts and uncles. But K's happy homecoming is short-lived. His life isn't much improved at home with a father who is alternately absent or abusive and a mother who turns a blind eye. A baby brother brightens things up for a short while. But the punishing cycle of poverty and racism take their toll on K and his brother. In the end, one experiences mental illness while the other falls into petty crime. VERDICT Published earlier in the UK, Owusu's slight novel was awarded the 2020 Desmond Elliott Prize for debut fiction. Short chapters, some merely a paragraph in length, propel the narrative. Don't be fooled by its slight size, however; this poetic story packs a big emotional punch and will engage a range of readers.--Barbara Love
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Review by Kirkus Book Review
A young London man navigates depression in this hypnotic book. There's a life packed inside the pages of this slim novel. One of Owusu's most impressive achievements here is creating the space of a much larger life--both for the novel's narrator, K, and for K's family--through elliptical references. The prose is often stunning: "So now I breathe British air with airs akin to royal heirs--my mum thought she was making a dark life fair." The first half is told in short vignettes, each a page or less, and even in the second half, the chapters remain brief. K spends several early years in a foster home before reconnecting with his parents. His observations balance quotidian details--like the way he watched movies on TV in his youth--with more wrenching evocations of the crueler parts of childhood. At one point, for example, a friend of K's comes to visit and is struck by his family's poverty. "When we bickered in school, my living conditions were his weapon of choice," Owusu writes. K's family ties to Ghana are a constant; a reference to "suitcases longing for their promised flight to Ghana" makes for another powerful image. As he grows older, K deals with depression; a stint in therapy ends when his therapist asks him, "Who taught you to hate yourself, K?" Even as Owusu writes about unsettling experiences, like the way K gains weight from taking medication for his mental health, his prose remains deft: "We call it uncle belly. I call it antidepressants causing more problems than solving." By novel's end, the reader is left feeling as though they've experienced another person's life, both the ecstatic heights and harrowing depths. Owusu reckons movingly with complex personal and familial dynamics. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.