Bad Love by Maame Blue

Date Read: November 23rd 2020

Published: June 2020

Publisher: Jacaranda Books

Pages: 340

The Blurb

#TwentyIn2020 Bad Love is the story of London-born Ghanaian Ekuah Danquah and her tumultuous experience with first love. Marked by this experience, she finds herself at a crossroads – can she fall in love again, or does the siren song of her first love still call?

Against a backdrop of enigmatic nights scattered with spoken-word poetry in London, Venice, Accra and Paris, Ekuah tries to reconcile her personal journey with the love she struggles with for Dee Emeka, a gifted musician who is both passionate and aloof in his treatment of Ekuah. After 18 months together, he disappears from her life, confirming her worst fears about the unstable foundation of their relationship. She attempts to graduate university whilst retreating into herself, searching for new validations and preoccupations from heartbreak. 

Life marches on and Ekuah finds personal fulfillment in her poetry and community work. But when she must choose between her first love and the promise of a new, unexpected love, in the form of Jay Stanley, can she handle the vulnerability and forgiveness required? Grappling with her examples of love, Ekuah must forge her own path. With an increasingly successful career, she finds herself travelling around the world. When her rise intersects with Dee’s own fame, the two are pushed to reach a final resolution.

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Review – ★★★ (3 stars)

In case you’ve been living under a rock, Twenty in 2020 is a collaboration between Jacaranda Books and Words of Color, where they dedicate this year to publishing 20 works by Black British writers. The works include adult fiction, non-fiction and poetry. The aim of this trailblazing program is to normalize the presence of diverse literature, characters and authors across all genres and curricula, with the hope that it will be a source of inspiration for a new generation of publishing professionals and authors. Maame Blue’s debut was among the 20 works published by Jacaranda Books, back in June of this year.

Bad Love is more of a 3.5 stars rating (out of 5), for sure! I double-fisted this debut by listening to the book via Audible alongside reading the paperback, which I recently purchased. I really enjoyed the audio narration of this book! The narrator – Vivienne Acheampong, did a superb job. Maame Blue is a stellar writer and I must say – I enjoyed how smooth and lucid the writing was in this novel.

Black Brits – especially Ghanaian-British readers would appreciate this story, as there are nuances only they can fully grasp within the novel. Since I was a child born and partially raised in the Diaspora, I appreciated these nuances – for example, being raised by Ghanaian parents outside of Ghana; going to Ghanaian restaurants in the West and realizing that bad (rude) customer service is one of our trademarks; constantly grappling with double identities; viewing the world through double lenses, etc. At this novel’s core, Bad Love is a coming-of-age cum love story. At the periphery, the story delves into family, marriage, same-sex love and travel. The latter themes intrigued me most.

I’m not really a fan of the romance genre, especially involving young characters. A part of me felt annoyed by Ekuah’s ‘situationships’, her misplaced priorities and her need to feel wanted. Ekuah’s entanglements with Dee and Jay definitely felt real, but were cliché (and slightly triggering!) and I was not moved by their shenanigans. In fact, I actually really disliked those two male characters – especially Dee. Maame Blue’s mastery in her development of these characters allowed me to have strong emotions towards them, which is telling. Perhaps readers aged 17-26 would be more into Ekuah’s love entanglements. However, while reading, a part of me felt compassion for Ekuah, as I journeyed with her into adulthood. She’s just your typical university student finding her way through life while trying to not lose herself in ‘bad love’.

Bad Love takes readers from London to Venice, Paris to Accra, and back to London. I enjoyed being in different settings with Ekuah – descriptions of places and happenings in Italy and Accra were palpable and made me miss spoken word/literary events and musical concerts during this pandemic.

There are quite a number of characters to keep track of in the novel, and I was very much entertained by Ekuah’s parents and their marriage. Ekuah’s Dad in particular was such a different character. What a man! I wonder what a character like Okonkwo from Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart would think of him! Ekuah’s Dad was the complete opposite of the African hyper-masculine stereotype that I’m so used to reading about in literature. Without giving too much away, the evolution of Ekuah’s parents’ marriage was fascinating and I loved the trajectory of that relationship, as it was sooo unexpected.

Overall, the title ‘Bad Love’ may have readers expecting a story laden with sour happenings, but this isn’t the case at all. Bad Love is an entertaining coming-of-age story that follows Ekuah into slowly realizing that she is her own best thing.

★★★ (3 stars) – Good book. I recommend it!

Purchase Bad Love on Amazon


P.S: I’ll be hosting a GIVEAWAY for Bad Love + other goodies, kind courtesy of Maame Blue over on Bookstagram – Monday November 30th to December 4th. Be sure to enter the giveaway at @africanbookaddict on Monday! It’s open to all readers on the African continent. All the details will be posted on African Book Addict!‘s Bookstagram.

Lastly, if you’re still wondering whether you should indulge in Maame Blue’s writing, definitely read her 2018 award-winning short story, entitled – Black Sky. This is probably the 5th time I’m referencing this short story on this book blog. Read it oh!

So The Path Does Not Die by Pede Hollist

Date Read: June 30th 2016

Published: 2014 (originally published by Langaa Press, 2012)

Publisher: Jacaranda Books

Pages: 352

pede hollist

 The Blurb

Long after Fina has left Sierra Leone for America, memories of a broken initiation still haunt her. She longs to return, to find her grandmother and right the path that has been set for young girls centuries past. Her journey from the streets of Freetown to Washington echo with the tensions, ambiguities, and fragmentation of the diaspora. Fina’s inner turmoil and feelings of ‘otherness’, persist as she travels further from home. Ultimately, the broken path of her childhood brings Fina back to Sierra Leone, to a life she had never imagined for herself. So the Path Does Not Die is a tender and gently observed novel exploring attitudes towards female circumcision, and a beautifully rendered novel, from an exciting new voice in African literature.

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Review – ★★★★★ (5 stars)

Is it me, or were there not enough people talking about this fascinating book back in 2014 when it was published? I was introduced to Pede Hollist’s writing when his short story – Foreign Aid was shortlisted for the 2013 Caine Prize. Back then, it was great to see a Sierra Leonean on the shortlist for a change. And I really hope more writers from Sierra Leone are brought to the spotlight soon!

So The Path Does Not Die is fundamentally a story of love and the belongingness of people and place. Finaba’s (or later known as ‘Fina’ by her adopted family) life revolves around her interrupted FGM (female genital mutilation)/ initiation process in her village. In the novel, the deadly practice of FGM is a coming-of-age event where a girl finally becomes a woman and ‘belongs’ to the people of the village. Fina’s parents loathed this practise but her grandma strongly supported it. After Fina’s family is shunned from their village due to an abominable act by her father to save Fina from this deadly practise, they move to Freetown (Sierra Leone’s capital) with heaps of curses on their heads.

In Freetown, Fina endures hardships in all aspects of her life – family problems, university struggles, ethnic group discrimination (as she’s Fulani which is known to be in the minority), just to name a few. When Fina finally escapes Sierra Leone to the United States, though she matures beautifully and becomes relatively successful thanks to her determination to be happy and independent, she faces a new set of struggles: immigration woes, Africans vs. African-Americans vs. Caribbean concerns, the myth of the American dream and cultural alienation. For some reason, all the painful lessons Fina experiences seem to be tied back to the night of her interrupted initiation process. She somehow feels she does not ‘belong’, even when she finally finds true love. To Fina, Sierra Leone seems to be the only place where she thinks she would feel valued; a place where she feels she’d be ‘on the right path’ in life.

Initially, Pede Hollist’s storytelling gave me a Chinua Achebe vibe as the story starts off with a folktale. Hollist’s writing style is rhythmic, simple, and accurate in all the nuances he captures and I was satisfied with how this story came full circle by the end! I was a bit skeptical on how Pede Hollist would accurately write and speak for Fina in this book, as he is a man and would probably portray a man better. But I was impressed by his careful attention to consciously writing Fina’s character in a way that spoke on many feminist issues.

So The Path Does Not Die had me thoroughly entertained and I shamelessly giggled at all the intense dramatic happenings that occurred in this story! Some of the depictions of certain cultural groups portrayed in this novel may seem stereotypical, but I believe Hollist executes these depictions with finesse and in a jovial manner. This novel actually reminded me of Chimamanda Adichie’s Americanah, as there are several side stories of the people Fina encounters in this story. Some characters include: Sidebe – a diamonds trader; Aman – Fina’s African-American best friend; Cammy – Fina’s Trinidadian fiancé; Mawaf – a child soldier’s wife, just to name a few. The socio-political backgrounds and commentary on these characters are all so layered and beautifully tied into Fina’s personal story of trying to find happiness, while being true to herself. I absolutely adore how this book is a cultural melting-pot of Black peoples’ (African, African-American and Caribbean) similarities, differences and the connection they all have to the African continent.

I learned a great deal about Sierra Leone from this novel! You would think us West Africans would know more about our fellow brethren on this coast, but I really had no clue. I jotted down a lot of the cultural references, ethnic groups, native foods, languages, national costumes, native names and natural resources from Sierra Leone. I particularly liked that this novel wasn’t grim with the horrors of FGM, but rather acted as a conduit for speaking against the horrible act, while commenting on other tough Sierra Leonean economic, cultural and social issues as well. Reading dialogue in Trinidadian patois and Sierra Leonean Krio as well as recognizing various West African mannerisms and sayings, made this novel all the more enjoyable, as various happenings and conversations really came to life! Don’t you just love when you learn about our world through a good, entertaining story?

I encourage anyone who is looking for a captivating book on Sierra Leone and the Diaspora to pick this up! I eagerly look forward to Pede Hollist’s future projects and I definitely plan on reading more books published by Jacaranda Books!

★★★★★ (5 stars) – Amazing book, I loved it. Absolutely recommend!

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Purchase So The Path Does Not Die by Pede Hollist on Amazon