Book Review: Dead Corpse by Nuzo Onoh

Beautiful and heart breaking, Dead Corpse is the story of three generations of medicine women: Xikora, Owa, and Aku, the former two being priestesses of the earth goddess, Ana, and the latter seeking to break away from a mantle she doesn’t want. Theirs is a tale of devotion, both to their goddess and to each other, death, and consequences.

What I loved: The characters were fleshed out, flawed, and real. The rebellious teen trying to forge her own path in a world where she is Othered, the devout mother trying to raise her child to carry on their line, the villainous man ruled by greed. The setting, Nigeria, comes to life as much as the characters, as does the culture thereof. It’s as hard and cruel as it is soft and kind, filled with life that jumps off the page. Never does it feel like Owa is wandering a paper town, flat and used only as a backdrop. We see the world Owa and Aku live and the bias they face as albino women. We witness both the poverty and the wealth, the clash between traditional religion and the more modern Christianity. Basically, I adored just about everything Onoh put to page. The way she captured their life, their struggles and triumphs, their relationships, was pure magic.

What didn’t work for me: There were really only two aspects that took me out of the story (which is really saying something as I’m a very picky reader!). The first was Owa’s relationship with Femi. It felt very rushed and seemed to contradict the lifestyle a Nshi woman was supposed to lead. The character of Femi himself was fine, but some of their interactions just struck me as strangely timed (flirting moments after she experiences severe trauma) and I couldn’t get fully invested. The other, which I’m going to keep extremely short, was the very end. The redemption of a particular character felt unearned to me.

Overall: I LOVED this book. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys supernatural horror steeped with real world lore and elements. I will definitely be checking out more from Onoh.


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