Review: Caleb Azumah Nelson’s Debut

Temiloluwa Omoyele

Language fails us, and sometimes our parents do too. We all fail each other, sometimes small, sometimes big, but look, when we love we trust, and when we fail, we fracture that joint.”

In the literary world, African fiction has quickly crawled its way upwards in the hearts of many readers. African fiction has also permanently caused readers to warm chairs, flipping through pages of engrossing storytelling. Books like Open Water place African fiction up there among the best literary genres globally. There are books you read and then there are books you experience – you experience Open Water.

“She has swum out into open water, and it is not long before you join her.”

Open Water follows the love story of two Black Artists – a dancer and a photographer. The duo paths cross and they are thrown into a vast pool of emotions. In this pool, they learn to glide and swim towards one another surmounting challenges from their pasts. They learn to openly embrace each other’s individualities and struggles. 

Open Water also tells the story of a Black man who wants to be seen, who struggles to express his vulnerabilities, and deals with traceable fears fuelled by racism. The writer constantly points out that it is one thing to be looked at and another thing to be seen. In this story, we are brought to see the main character. We watch him strive to come out of mental jumbles usually with the help of music. We watch him fight for his mental freedom and run from the claws of depression. At once, it becomes a story of victory and acceptance.

The writer, Caleb Azumah Nelson writes brilliantly and in a manner some have called lyrical. His writing weaves rich metaphors punctuated by repeated sentences. His play on words is ridiculously fantastic and one might often pause to appreciate with wonder  such carefully constructed sentences

This engaging breadth of book makes one wish the book, at 176 pages, were a little longer. And we definitely cannot wait for more works from the hands of this writer.

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