Reviews: Black Volta

Black Volta is 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)

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.

I really liked this novel. 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)