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Book Review: The Private Joys of Nnenna Maloney by Okechukwu Nzelu

Title: The Private Joys of Nnenna

Author: Okechukwu Nzelu

Length: 310 pages

Publisher: Dialogue Books

Synopsis: As Nnenna Maloney approaches adulthood, she longs to connect to her Igbo-Nigerian culture. Her close and tender relationship with her mother, Joanie, becomes strained as Nnenna begins to ask probing questions about her father, whom Joanie refuses to discuss. Nnenna is asking big questions about how to ‘be’ when she doesn’t know the whole of who she is. Meanwhile, Joanie wonders how to love when she has never truly been loved. Their lives are filled with a cast of characters asking similar questions about identity and belonging while grappling with the often hilarious encounters of everyday Manchester.

I have to say I loved this book. I didn’t expect to love it as much as I did, but I absolutely flew through it because I didn’t want to put it down.

In The Private Joys of Nnenna Maloney we follow Nnenna as prepares to finish school, go to university and we see the strain in has on her relationship with her mother Joanie. Their relationship is the main focus of the book and its handled so delicately by Okechukwu. There’s lightness and you can feel the tension building.

It’s also a coming of age book, with Nnenna wanting to find out more about her father and her heritage. You can feel Nnenna’s longing and confusion. It’s really beautiful when she begins to discover who she is. I loved it.

There are so many characters in ‘The Private Joys of Nnenna Maloney’ and they are all absolutely fantastic. They are so real. I just found myself absolutely endeared to all of them. I have to give a special shoutout to Jonathon. His story was incredible. I found this so emotional and so relatable. They are all so relatable because they’re written so beautifully and honestly. I loved how they all connected. Okechukwu knows how to craft characters.

This book has a lot of charm to it. I thinks it’s down to Okechukwu’s writing. It has these incredibly light and witty moments of Joanne and Nnenna playing games, or Joanie talking about every day moments, then it subtly shifts to much more meaningful, deeper and harder issues like the racism in the UK, or tension between Nnenna and Joanie. It’s just handled with dignity, honesty and grace. It’s a real highlight of the book.

I also have give a shoutout to a section of this book towards the end between to characters Amir and Daniel. It was handled perfectly. It was really beautiful. Okechukwu said so little but it said so much. I will never forget that powerful bit of writing.

I don’t know if you can tell from this review but I’m a huge fan of Okechukwu Nzelu’s writing. I can’t recommend this book to you enough. Please check it out.

Thank you to Dialogue Books for my copy of this book in return for an honest, unbiased review. It’s out now.

Until the next review

JTH