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Aftershocks, A book Review

Jo has been an ITU nurse at the London North West NHS Trust for 14 years. She obtained her RN at University College London Hospital.


A Book Review, Nadia Owusu’s Aftershocks.

One of life’s little pleasures is the freedom to be able to curl up on a comfy sofa, hot drink in hand, and delve into a good book. Retirement has proven to be the ideal time to rekindle my love of books, and with the current lockdown, there really is no excuse. As a young student nurse away from home for the first time in the early seventies, books kept me sane. I virtually devoured every book I could get my hands on.

James Baldwin, Alex Haley, Maya Angelou, and Alice Walker are just a few of the writers I discovered way back then, as were Thomas Hardy, D H Lawrence, and many more besides. At sixteen years old, I joined the World Book Club, and a new world had suddenly opened up to me. I received a book per month and discovered, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and The Count of Monte Cristo amongst many others. These books became my friends.

Some years later, a work colleague gave me a set of three hardcover books by J. R. R. Tolkien, 'The Lord Of The Rings,' and I was lost in that strange and wonderful world long before Hollywood decided to make the blockbuster movie. After reading 'The Devil Rides Out,' by Dennis Wheatley, I was so afraid, I kept the light turned on in my tiny room all through the night, my courage returning only as the first light of dawn broke through the curtains. Later, I would discover poetry by Maya Angelou, Emily Dickinson, Edger Guest, and Sylvia Plath and decided to try my hands at writing a few of my own.

I guess I'll keep on reading and reading for as long as my aging eyesight permits. My choice of material has always been diverse and somewhat eclectic. While I still enjoy the odd Dan Brown and Steven King to get the pulse racing, I also read Kazuo Ishiguro, Zadie Smith, Marlon James, and Ralph Ellison. And occasionally I dip into James Joyce, and Ayn Rand, 'The Fountainhead' remains one of my best-loved books. I must say, that while I enjoyed reading Rand, I find her political philosophy a little overwhelming, but there can be no doubt about her exceptional intelligence and ability as a writer.

There are so many new writers out there, it's hard to separate the wheat from the chaff, But I'm gradually working my way through them. Some I had planned to read, but never found the time, others I'd bought and wished that I hadn't wasted my hard-earned cash.

The classics are books that have stood the test of time, and I easily admit to rereading many that I had read for the first time over forty years ago. It's interesting how one's perspective can change with time. Reading Thomas Hardy for my English exam is a totally different experience from reading the very same books for pleasure years later. That said, we have to remember that among today's new writers are tomorrow's classic authors, so to ignore the contemporary writers would be a mistake. Occasionally I stumble across a new writer whose work is so exceptional, it sends shivers down my spine and I want to savour every word, every nuance, because I know I've found something special. Alas, such books are as rare as the proverbial hen's teeth.

But every now and then someone comes along that causes me to sit up and take notice. Nadia Owusu is such a writer.

Quotes: Nadia Owusu

"Ethnic Origin: Black. Biracial. Indo-European? Central Asian? Although I identify as Black, I am more literally Caucasian than most people who call themselves Caucasian."

Aftershocks, Dispatches from the Frontlines of Identity

‘Aftershocks, A memoir’ tells the story of how at only two-years-old; Nadia and her baby sister were abandoned by their Armenian mother who then fled from Tanzania to the US. Nadia’s adored father, Osei Owusu, a Ghanaian who was then working with the United Nations became her world.

Sadly, at just thirteen, her father died of cancer, and for the second time in her young life, the cruel hand of fate struck another life-changing blow, leaving Nadia and her sister in the care of a stepmother whom Nadia had thoroughly disliked.

'I have lived in disaster and disaster has lived in me.' She wrote. It is a testament to her courage and determination, that despite the shock of losing both parents, she weathered the storm and came through the other side. But what is more incredible is that she was able to turn her experience into this incredible best-selling page-turner.

Born in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, Nadia grew up in Addis Ababa, Kumasi, Kampala, Rome, and London. With each place came a new language, culture, and identity.

I love how Owusu weaved her story by the clever use of metaphors. The fault lines that led to the seismic event, the quake that shattered her young life, and the resounding aftershocks that rippled into the future. Death and abandonment can warp a child’s perception of the world, but sometimes these same adversities can make them strong. The book, Aftershocks, is beautifully written with insight and intelligence.

I decided to buy this book because the author happened to be the niece of my friend, Harriet Owusu. But friendship aside, I was simply blown away by the young writer. Nadia Owusu was born to write, she is unrelenting, her tone and imagery take this book to another level.

In this debut memoir, Nadia wrote of her extraordinary life and experiences, the many shocks that caused her seismometer to vibrate. When she was seven, her absentee mother visited her in Rome, it was also the day an earthquake shook Armenia. In her mind, the private and seismic events would always be inseparable.

Nadia wrote of abandonment, loss, adjustment, contradictions, and love. the book also touches on current issues that are as relevant now as they had always been; skin colour, race, identity, and belonging. But there is also love and understanding. Love for her father whom she cherished and lost while very young. For her sister, grandmother, and of course, her aunt, Harriet to whom she turned for advice, guidance, and home-cooked Ghanaian food, while away at boarding school, but also for the mother who had walked away from herself and her baby sister.

This book will resonate with the reader long after the last page is read. I'm looking forward to reading her next book.

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Also, by Nadia Owusu:

So Devilish a fire

Nadia's Grandmother

Nadia's Grandmother

What the Papers are saying:

What the papers are saying about Nadia Owusu’s Aftershocks:

"One of the most moving books of the New Year." STYLIST

"Gorgeous and unsettling." New York Times

"Brilliant and devastating…tender and lacerating." Pandora SYKES.

And about Nadia:

"One of the literary world’s most promising new voices." RED

Aftershocks By Nadia Owusu

© 2021 Jo Alexis-Hagues


Jo Alexis-Hagues (author) from Lincolnshire, U.K on March 21, 2021:

Good luck with the self-publishing, I had published one of my old money-making hubs as an ebook to test the process, and found that it was relatively easy. But I did not promote it. That was some time ago. I'm currently working on a couple of children's books and had sent one out to a traditional publisher. While the response was encouraging, it wasn't quite what they were looking for, unfortunately. I ought to make a concerted effort to start sending it out again, or maybe I'll bite the bullet and self-publish. Do let me know how you get on. Take care now.

Ann Carr from SW England on March 21, 2021:

Yes, thanks Jo, we're all fine and coping with this awful virus, thankfully.

I think the promoting bit of self-publishing is the worst but I'm going to have a go for the first time!

All the best. Looking forward to your next hub!


Jo Alexis-Hagues (author) from Lincolnshire, U.K on March 20, 2021:

Ann, thanks for taking a look. Yes, she is pretty amazing. And no, I haven't been around much, not since moving up to Lincolnshire. I've been writing, but nothing published so far. Not too keen on self-publishing nor promoting and all that entails, but we'll see. Hope all is good with you and the family. Stay safe.

Ann Carr from SW England on March 20, 2021:

Hi Jo! This is a great review. What an amazing girl she must have been, to endure and overcome such things and survive. I shall certainly look out for this. Like you, I have an eclectic taste in literature. I also delve into my favourite classics from time to time.

It is great to have more time to read in retirement, isn't it? I too have been reading a lot more, because of Covid too, and enjoying my own catch-up as well as my book club suggestions. I've just read 'A Gentleman in Moscow' which is so well-written and an amazing story, full of character, humour and emotion. I should do a review, shouldn't I?!

Great to see you. I haven't seen anything from you for a while.

I hope you're keeping safe and well.


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