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We are barely through the first quarter of 2018, and we already have a long list of new African novels to read. Chuma Nwokolo’s Extinction of Menai was published on the 7th of March, the same month that saw the publication of Aminatta Forna’s Happiness, Uzodinma Iweala’s Speak No Evil, and Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone. Add to this Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti: The Night Masquerade published in January and Akwaeke Emezi’s Freshwater published last month. Yes, African novelists are killing it!

But as you decide on which novel to begin reading, we wanted to make sure you knew that Chuma Nwokolo’s The Extinction of Menai snagged a Publisher’s Weekly starred review during the magazine’s pre-publication forecast on the novel.

Publisher’s Weekly starred review is one of the most coveted endorsements in the literary world. Libraries, book clubs, book sellers, critics, and other literary stakeholders rely on the starred review to decide on what books to spotlight on their platforms.

A starred review simply means that The Extinction of Menai is an outstanding book and that readers will love it. In the review, the novel is described as “poignant, thrilling, and funny” and loaded with “madcap twists.” Sounds delightful!

Chuma Nwokolo is a Nigerian fiction writer. He is the well-known author of Diaries of a Dead African, The Ghost of Sani Abacha, and How to Spell Naija in 100 Short Stories.

See the full review below and links on where to buy the book.

Twins separated at birth discover their true identities and a spiritual leader pursues the ancestral homeland of his “dying nation” in this poignant, thrilling, and funny novel from Nwokolo (Diaries of a Dead African). Brothers Humphrey, a London writer, and Zanda, a journalist in Abuja, Nigeria, are Menai, descendants of a Nigerian tribe whose members were, in 1990, subjected by a pharmaceutical company to drug tests that killed thousands. By 2005, only a few dozen Menai remain, and their elderly shaman Mata sets out on a quest to find and be buried in their ancestral Saharan homeland. Meanwhile, a succession of hallucinations and blackouts reveal to both Humphrey and Zanda that they have been living double lives, unbeknownst even to themselves: Zanda has been operating as the anticorruption extremist Badu, while Humphrey lived as Izak for eight years on the Ivory Coast. Badu’s co-conspirators smuggle him to Cameroon; and Humphrey heads to Africa to rediscover his forgotten life. But Izak is wanted by the police, too, forcing Humphrey to flee to Lagos, only to be mistaken for his brother and arrested. Zanda is the only one who can clear his name, but he has to return to Nigeria first. The madcap twists and turns that ensue provide a joyful counterpoint to Mata’s somber odyssey, and Nwokolo manages to brilliantly distill his branching plot into a singular portrayal of a threatened culture. (Mar.)
Buy Extinction of Menai | Amazon

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Ainehi Edoro is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she teaches African literature. She received her doctorate at Duke University. She is the founder and editor of Brittle Paper and series editor of Ohio University Press’s Modern African Writer’s imprint.

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