Reviews: Black Volta


Black Volta is one of the most honest portraits of human spirit in contemporary black literature. Pete KJ gave his all into unapologetically telling one of the most encouraging stories about struggle, hope, and redemption that we human beings all face in our lives. I found myself deeply immersing, emerging, and evolving in Black Volta thanks to the author’s crisp and emphatic writing skills. Pete KJ truly knows how to tell a story!

While I saw so much of myself through the main protagonist Liz, Carlos Mario was the one who inspired me to travel to Ghana for the very first time this past February. I fell in love with the country almost immediately and was completely mesmerized by the City of Cape Coast.

In the end, Black Volta truly breathes its own life and inspires on its own terms! (D. Tran)

Words fail me to describe how good this novel is.

The paths of Carlos and Liz cross in spectacular, unimaginable ways, and each is drawn back to the Black Volta River of Ghana, which is witness to the most dreadful day of both their lives. Can the River provide them salvation? Read Black Volta by Pete KJ to find out.

It is literary fiction combined with mystery, or mystery combined with literary fiction. No matter how you put it, one thing is for sure –
you cannot put it down
. What did Carlos do as a young man that still haunts him? What happened at the Black Volta? Why does he keep having the same dream where he is drowning? Why is Liz so indebted to her mother? What happened at the river, ages ago, that changed Liz’s life?

So many questions. The author skillfully deflects the answers to these questions and when he gives the answers, you are stunned. The first 24% of the book is slow-paced, but the writing does not let you give up. You do not reach even half of the book when the author drops a bomb.

With exceptionally well-developed characters, a rich story, and good writing, it should be in every literary fiction and mystery lover’s shelves. Scratch that. If you are a fan of a good story that does not need to be (and would not be) finished in one sitting but would rather grow on you, then read this book.

Last but not the least, (we have) Ghana. Pete has described Ghana, its people, its cities, its roads, and its myriad other things so vividly that it can safely be assumed as the third pivotal character in this book. By the time, I reached 30% of the book, I was salivating for jollof rice, fufu and goat light soap, and kelewele.
(Debjani Ghosh, Debjani’s Thoughts)

An intense and interesting work of literary fiction. As the title suggests, much of the novel centers around the Black Volta River in Ghana, Africa, with events spread across three decades as lives from the past come back together in the present. One such figure is Carlos, who seeks deep atonement for the sins of his past, and returns to Ghana to own up to the crimes of his youth. Liz has long since left Ghana for more opportunities in the USA, but she has to support the family she has left behind, and slowly she too is drawn back to the river where her own secrets and traumas lie. Author Pete KJ writes with highly atmospheric prose that evokes every sense when he writes of Ghana. The culture, climate and harrowing oppression of poverty are powerfully evoked in a truly literary way, and the characters are used to convey the bleak history of such a unique and beautiful place in the world. As the river flows through the novel to give it its rich flavor, the characters slowly come to life and we learn more about their grievous pasts. Themes of race and identity are the most prevalent, with effective close narration that gives us much from the characters’ internal psyches and produces a highly emotive arc for them both as a result. Overall, Black Volta is a highly accomplished cultural novel with plenty of intrigue and strong character plot arcs to keep readers thrilled from beginning to end. (K.C. Finn, Readers’ Favorite)

A warm, vibrant story steeped in African culture and society–one which lingers in the mind long after the reading. Readers interested in literary psychological explorations of African cultural roots will find Black Volta as compelling for its social inspections and atmospheric descriptions of the country as it is an absorbing story of two very different individuals who dare to go backwards in time; there to rediscover their roots and wings. (D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review)

Great Read! This book was a page-turner for me because I was fascinated by the Ghanaian culture and wanted to find out how the author weaved his fictional story with the facts surrounding the country. The title was mysterious and it aroused my curiosity. It was like opening a box of chocolates in that I did not know what flavors I will find inside. I could very well relate to the protagonists and their life journeys. Definitely recommend this book for folks who like to learn about other cultures and imagine how it would be to live in another country. The author’s style of writing was easy to understand. Finished it in one seating. Great read! (Tony, posted on Amazon on Oct. 29, 2019)

Slow burning tale of redemption in the warmth of Ghana. This superbly written fiction tells the interwoven tales of two people who travel to Ghana from different parts of North and South America, for very different reasons – one a Ghanaian emigrant, the other with a very intriguing reason to return to a country he once lived in.  As the tale develops, both start to reveal gripping and promising backstories, and as the possibilities begin to take shape, a degree of tension grows beneath the surface; I found myself utterly gripped.  That said, the book does not actually go in any of the ways I was anticipating – though to tell the truth this fact actually makes it better; Black Volta benefits from remaining downplayed.  It is not melodrama but perhaps only just really drama, with an enthralling teaser of a plot.  Ultimately, though, the real purpose of this tale as a whole is actually more profound than any of its parts.

The characters’ life stories are told against the backdrop of an affectionate, detailed account of the country’s rich culture, its warm and friendly people, and the casual corruption permeating every level of a nation making fast progress; throughout, the hospitality, generosity and culinary offerings of the people of Ghana are a delight to behold.  Joint main character Liz is something of a foil to the laid-back attitude of her people, having worked extremely hard to make a professional life in the States, in order to look after a wayward family back home, whilst American Carlos has, arguably, gone the opposite way in life.  The book is perhaps a touch long, and a vivid slow burner for its duration, but generally it is a more thoughtful tale of guilt, redemption and the ultimate affect that the two characters have on each other’s lives – despite a relatively brief and tenuous connection.

KJ is a superb author, drawing the reader in effortlessly as he writes. The language and narrative are top quality, written with eloquence and articulation, by someone who is clearly a professional, and a well-educated lover of travel, food and cultures.  If you are someone of similar tastes, who prefers their fiction mature, considerate and understated, I am in no doubt that you will like it, too.  I have never considered the notion of visiting Ghana before, but after reading this excellent book, I wonder if I might just reconsider.  If nothing else, KJ plants a seed in the reader’s mind, that the wonderful people of this African country might just possess a warmth and kindness that is seldom seen in many other parts of the world – for this alone, I suspect he will feel that he was achieved what he set out to with this work. (Matt McAvoy)

A Hidden Gem! This story was one that I would have never chosen to read. I am so glad that this one came my way as once I started I couldn’t put it down. I am very surprised that this hasn’t been picked up to be a movie or tv show. It was a wonderful story of culture, travel, determination and strength. The journey that these two characters take is amazing and felt like real life. The writing to this one helped to draw me into the story and kept me there until the very last page. This is the reason why people should try more indie authors because every once in a while you find a gem like this story. (Crossroad Reviews)

Ghana Looms Large. This expansive, engaging pancontinental novel explores patriarchy, race and power against a dazzlingly evoked backdrop. The cross-crossing lives of two characters provide the focus of the story, with Ghana looming large as a vividly-evoked character in its own right. Evocative and smartly-plotted, this fine novel is as driven by its compelling characters as it is by the omnipresence of Ghana’s rich culture. (Certified “Indie Book We Love,” Joanne Owen, LoveReading)

Character-driven story of redemption set in Africa.  It would be simplistic to say that Black Volta is a story of redemption—it is that—but so much more. Set mostly in Ghana, West Africa, we get to know two deeply-flawed individuals. Carlos Mario seeks to atone for crimes he committed years ago, and Liz Abgali struggles under the burden of her family’s unending needs for support. This is definitely a character-driven story—and Ghana is also one of the characters. Carlos and Liz’s own stories both take dark and unexpected turns, and how they react to these happenings make for a page-turner. If you like novels set in exotic locales, stories with a little mystery, stories about culture clash, or travel novels you’ll like this one.

Pete KJ has a very unique voice and I think this book deserves a much wider audience! I also enjoyed his earlier novels: The Coins (also in Ghana) and The Maple Leaf. I think we’ll be seeing more from Pete KJ in the future. His work straddles genres but I’d place it mostly in literary fiction, with strong multicultural aspects. Can’t wait to see what he comes up with next. (AvidReader, posted on Amazon on Nov. 3, 2019)

An incredible book.  Black Volta by Pete KJ is a superbly written book and has been such a pleasant reading experience for me. It is a travelogue through Ghana, an immigrants’ story in America and a thriller all rolled in together.

There is this insane emotional connect with Liz…The ever obliged daughter Liz is the chosen sacrificial goat it seems but the woman is neither complaining nor evading the strenuous responsibilities…The young Carlos worked as a teacher but was continuously troubled by children on the road with their raucous shouts calling him ‘strange white’ in the local language…This was such an interesting perspective and something that gives a completely different tenor in our prejudiced literary world…Black Volta, the dark murky river flowing through Ghana, holds the truth of these two lives and opens an interesting narrative for us to unravel.

You can see the stroke of a unique authorial voice. The language is fluid and the content is so vast that you never find flowery language overpowering the plot. The nitty-gritty of Ghanaian way of living, the bargaining at the local marketplace or homemade millet beer add so much authenticity…Though one can always question if this is an outsider’s perspective of Ghana but, yes with Carlos in the picture, the author maintains that distance from claiming the know-all authority.

Incredibly, a lot of the practices and social norms are common to Indian ways. Liz reminded me of Akhila from Ladies Coupe by Anita Nair. The narrative of women who passionately take care of their family and yet, the same members are more parasitic in nature has such an emotional grip. And, then the plot that comes too close to being Indian. The little anecdotes of male-male buddies walking together as an acceptable norm in the past to present-day sighting of male-female couples walking hand-in-hand add so much flavour.

Black Volta is indeed an incredible book; it is seldom that one comes across such a book from an independent publishing platform. I was really happy to have read the book. (Ninu Nair, BookishLoom)

A beautiful story with a dark twist. I picked up Black Volta, not really knowing what to expect, but was very surprised with how quickly it drew me in and captivated my mind. This is an adventure that everyone needs to read!

Black Volta follows the alternating story of Carlos and Liz. Carlos has a lot of baggage and returns to Wa, Ghana to finally put an end to his guilt. Liz is a successful woman living in the states, but is living unknowingly as a slave for her mother and siblings. Their lives cross as they’re drawn to the Black Volta River.

The descriptions of Ghana are great—every small detail helped me so much in visualising this beautiful place, and it was very easy to imagine myself in any setting…As well as the setting descriptions, the author also brings each minor character to life too…

When we finally get to know Carlos’ secret, I was left gobsmacked! I found myself reading the chapter with my mouth open in shock. Liz also has a realisation and goes through a scary ordeal which makes her think about her life in a different light, and even drives her to the unthinkable. Watching Liz’s life hang in the balance was a terrifying and nail biting ordeal, and what is going through her mind could be very relatable for some readers. I wonder if there’d be some room for a sequel! (Emily Quinn, A Quintillion Words)

Float on a river of dark memory and broken dreams to freedom. Meandering like the Black Volta River itself, the characters in Black Volta by Pete KJ journey through memories of past trauma and hopes for a brighter future. Carlos, a successful businessman, seems to be in a midlife crisis. A trip to Ghana, the site of the long-ago disaster, could give him the catharsis he needs. Liz, born in Ghana, has a career in hospital administration in Pittsburgh, PA, and another full-time job managing the day-to-day affairs of her siblings back in Ghana. Thus, both protagonists embark on their respective journeys to Ghana and into their own pasts and relationships. Each has a concrete goal, but under the surface they also seek something more ephemeral in order to make sense of their lives and to move forward…

Black Volta is a beautifully written and entertaining book. Descriptions are detailed, clear, and fascinating throughout. The story’s language is constantly evocative without being hackneyed. The detailed descriptions of Puerto Rico, Ghana, and Vietnam (all places I’ve never visited!) drop the reader straight into the setting, and the insights into the immigrant experience prove truly eye-opening. It’s great fun to see Carlos and Liz’s paths cross several times before finally meeting and aiding each other on their respective journeys. All the characters feel real and their motives and actions believable. I’d recommend Black Volta to readers who enjoy learning about new locales as they read fiction, as well as those who enjoy watching likable, flawed humans trying to make their way through life. (Kathy L. Brown, Independent Book Review)

A stunning piece of literature. Black Volta enthralled, entertained and enchanted me from the very first page! This book can only be described as a read that should not be missed! Pete KJ effortlessly takes the reader on a thrilling journey; KJ’s words managed to keep me intrigued as well as entertained as I raced through this book. It is the kind of book that is impossible to put down, and when I had to I longed for it! I wanted to be reunited with the story I had grown to love and the characters I had become invested in. They are believable and their narratives jump right off the page and into the reader’s minds. If you are tired of reading the same old books that are lackluster and forgettable then take a chance with this one because I promise you now that you will not be disappointed! (Aimee Ann, Red Headed Book Lover)

Good Read from Beginning to End. (Posted by Janice on Amazon Canada, 20 November 2019)