Book Review | Call Number | June 2017 | Black Moses by Alain Mabanckou


Last month I posted about the June Call Number box that included Black Moses by Alain Mabanckou. Today I’ll tell you about the book itself.

Black Moses book coverThe story begins with 13-year-old Moses, whose full name is  Tokumisa Nzambe po Mose yamoyindo abotami namboka ya Bakoko but he’s not trying to live the long-name-life so he goes by Moses. He’s in an orphanage in Congo and it’s not the best life but it’s not a tale of abject poverty, abuse, and starvation either. About half the book takes place in this orphanage where he makes friends and enemies and does what most young teens do.

The second half of the book comes after he runs away from the orphanage and follows him well into adulthood. The last portion is a first-person account of Moses (who now goes by the nickname Little Pepper) being overcome by a mental illness.

Unfortunately, not much worked for me in this book. The first half, in the orphanage, didn’t have much of a point to it. It didn’t affect the second half of the book at all. The second half was a lot more interesting but it rushed through events so quickly (this was not a long book – less than 200 pages total) that I couldn’t regally get invested in anyone or anything.

I also found the first-person mental health declining parts to be unconvincing. It read very much as a book wherein the author read a book about mental illness and then based his writing on it instead of someone who’d really gone deep into his research.

As to the writing, I read up on Mabanckou a bit and apparently he’s known as an author who stretches the French language in interesting ways. This was obviously a translation so I didn’t get that. I found the language not particularly interesting. The whole thing sort of read like a non-fiction book, in which the author was just listing things that were happening.

Rating: 5/10 

Recommended for:  People who want to read about orphanages in the Congo; readers who like fiction that reads like non-fiction

Does it pass the Bechdel–Wallace testNo but it was a first-person account of a man.

Author of color / main character of color / female author / female main character: Yes / yes / no / no

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