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Aftershocks Book Review

January 14, 2021

“Earthquake: a great upheaval

Note: In an earthquake, the greatest risk to human life is the collapse of man-made structures. Reinforced structures can survive large earthquakes with minimal damage, but even a very small earthquake can destroy structures not built with adequate protection against shaking.”

Aftershocks by Nadia Owusu is a captivating, honest, haunting and beautiful memoir about identity and belonging. She is the daughter of a proud Ghanaian father (her hero) and an Armenian mother who abandoned her at the age of two (although she would reappear from time to time). She tells her story by going back and forth through time and place. Her journey spans across continents and she vividly and candidly shares stories of growing up in Rome, Addis Ababa, Kampala, Dar es Salaam, Kumasi, London and finally New York. I probably forgot a few countries, but you get the point.

To say that Nadia’s life has been chaotic and/or traumatic would be an understatement. Her mother abandons her, her father remarries and she has a tumultuous relationship with her stepmother (to say the least) and then her father passes away causing the ultimate shift in her life and puts a magnifying glass on love, loss, home, and belonging.

From country to country and year to year, Nadia takes the reader on a riveting journey and uses earthquakes as a metaphor for the events in her life. “An earthquake is the ground breaking and the heart breaking. It is frictional forces and literary device. A fault is a weakness. A woman’s body is a weakness. A wound is a weakness I can’t help but pick at. Some wounds never heal.” A lifetime of heartbreak and longing to belong leads Nadia to a total breakdown where she is sure that she is going mad and struggles with depression and anxiety as she tries to hold it together.

This book drew me in from the very beginning. I kept wanting to get back to it and wondering where she would end up next and when (or if) she would find peace, happiness and home. Although there were many tragic events, there was so much beauty in her words and revelations. Beyond the story of her personal life, her writing is quite educational. I learned about all of the countries she has once called home and the countries of her parents. She takes time to discuss the role of colonialism, race, colorism, privilege and religion and weaves it all into her reflective stories. Her life is so different from mine, but I felt connected and found similarity in her experiences. I became so invested in this book and was rooting for her the whole way through.

Halfway through the book, I sent the author a DM to tell her that this book is absolutely captivating. I have never done that before. I am giving this one 4.5 stars. Kudos to Nadia Owusu.

Many thanks to Bibliolifestyle, Simon and Schuster and NetGalley for the advanced copies.

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