I first heard about this book from fellow blogger Evelina from Avalinah’s Books. She had a raving review for this book and since our tastes are similar, I was eager to try this one out! You can check out her review here, but these are my thoughts:
Summary (Goodreads): Ada begins her life in the south of Nigeria as a troubled baby and a source of deep concern to her family. Her parents, Saul and Saachi, successfully prayed her into existence, but as she grows into a volatile and splintered child, it becomes clear that something went terribly awry. When Ada comes of age and moves to America for college, the group of selves within her grows in power and agency. A traumatic assault leads to a crystallization of her alternate selves: Asụghara and Saint Vincent. As Ada fades into the background of her own mind and these selves–now protective, now hedonistic–move into control, Ada’s life spirals in a dark and dangerous direction.
Review: I’m going to start off by giving a trigger warning for rape, suicide, and violence.
This book is one of the most unique novels I have ever read, with its blend of mythology and mental health. In her review, Evelina mentioned that this book can be read either as magical realism or as “stark naked reality.” While Evelina looked at it from the former, I went at it from the latter!
This novel takes a very fresh approach to multiple personality disorder: what if instead of it being just looked at as a mental illness, it is seen as a possession of the body by multiple spirits? In this way, the author has created multiple chapters that rotate through different personalities within Ada’s body, with each personality emerging during a different point of time in Ada’s life. And these personalities are not human, they are mythological forces with great power – they are gods.
I absolutely loved how the author created this story and went with it. Ada herself only has 2 chapters for herself, while the rest are divided by the other gods. Each had their own unique personality and none were infallible. They constantly stated that they were trying to protect Ada and that she was sane, and in doing so, it challenges the reader’s understanding of sanity and mental health.
Yet, even as the author uses mythology as a platform for this story, she does not shy away from elements of mental health. We see how these gods rise to the occasion and make themselves known when Ada is in trouble and cannot face reality on her own. We see how Ada struggles to understand these different people that are inside of her and how they shape her own feelings about herself. Even though the story is not told in her voice, I was still able to connect and understand Ada. While I am no expert on this area of mental health, this novel, through its unique portrayal of multiple personality disorder, helped me see things from a different point of view.
In short, this book was a remarkable experience that blends magical realism with mental illness. It is beautiful and tragic and creative beyond measure. It is a book I would recommend to anyone and for those reasons, I’m giving it 5/5 stars. Major shoutout to Evelina for bringing this book to my attention through her amazing blog (link to her review is at the top of this post)!
Happy reading ~