Brixton 1981. Sixteen-year-old Michael is already on the wrong side of the law. In in his community, where job opportunities are low and drug-running is high, this is nothing new.
But when Michael falls for Ngozi, a vibrant young immigrant from the Nigerian village of Obowi, their startling connection runs far deeper than they realise.
Narrated by the spirit of an African woman who lost her life on a slave ship two centuries earlier, her powerful story reveals how Michael and Ngozi’s struggle for happiness began many lifetimes ago.
Through haunting, lyrical words, one unforgettable message resonates: love, hope and unity will heal us all.
It is unusual to find a book that feels both original, yet familiar and as readers we are forever searching for that novel that feels unique! The Book Of Echoes by Rosanna Amaka is that book, it delivers a story that is thought-provoking, filled with a series of connections from the past to the present and a love of the written word, which brings the beautiful narrative to life effortlessly.
In her tale of the connections that flow from the moment a young women is dragged by slave gangs into the hold of a ship destined for the Jamaican slave plantations, to the lives of Michael in 1981 Brixton and Ngozi a young immigrant from Nigeria, we become a part of their story, of how each journey they take, is connected with that original event two centuries earlier. I found the narrator to be fascinating, a quite wonderful way to show the reader how our pasts, often shape our present and the lives we lead. She gives the story it’s central narrative, how poverty and racism in modern Britain and Africa have their roots firmly in the forced enslavement of the African people and the continued discrimination faced by so many in modern day Britain. Michael has known loss, racism and discrimination all his life and feels shaped by them and as a result he makes decisions that potentially wreck his hopes for a better future. Ngozi, comes from poverty, abuse and discrimination in her own country, yet strides into what I as a reader hoped, was a better future despite all of this. Tying their stories together, is the an ancestor, who endless search for stolen children, means she floats through the story, a restless soul, watching over both characters and reminding us of the repercussions of slavery that still affect modern Britain.
Now this may all seem dark and depressing, but it is not. This is a story about actions and consequences, but it is also a tale about the power of the human spirit to endure and thrive. Both Michael and Ngozi are affected by poverty and discrimination, but they are also watched over by a voice from the past, who heartache, has never dimmed her spirit and determination to find those stolen from her. As a result, it felt intuitive to me, that her bravery, her resilience, would find a home in them to and give them the strength to succeed. Love is the central tenant of The Book of Echoes, as is its power to redeem, meaning that despite all that they go through, we and they never lose hope, even in the face of endless challenges. I am shaped by the actions and decisions made by my ancestors, their decision to leave Ireland and travel to Wales, as are Michael and Ngozi, by the narrators decision in one moment, centuries before they were born. Those decisions sometimes take them down the wrong path, as in the case of Michael, but if we listen to the voices from our past, any path can be altered and this is why The Book of Echoes is a novel of our times. It contains hope, is written with language that conveys both the crushing pain of discrimination, but shines a light on the humanities greatest gift, love.
About the author
ROSANNA AMAKA began writing The Book of Echoes twenty years ago to give voice to the Brixton community in which she grew up. Her community was fast disappearing – as a result of gentrification, emigration back to the Caribbean and Africa, or simply with the passing away of the older generation. Its depiction of unimaginable pain redeemed by love and hope was also inspired by a wish to understand the impact of history on present-day lives. Rosanna Amaka lives in South London. This is her first novel. Meet her at @RosannaAmaka.