An innocent boy is lured to his death by the one person that should have protected him. Someone knows the truth about his disappearance; his little sister, Obele, a child that hears a secret voice which tells her terrible things no child should know about. Obele knows too much and must be killed. Her salvation lies in the hands of her new friends, a group of giggling little girls she meets at an abandoned "cursed house." Except their friendship comes with a terrible price. And suddenly, Obele starts to ask herself who exactly...or rather, what exactly are her new friends. Worse, how can she free the tormented ghost of her dead brother, trapped by a witchdoctor's curse? Set amidst the Biafran War, "The Sleepless" follows one child's struggles against both the natural and supernatural forces that threaten to end her life before the deadly enemy bombs can do so. And perhaps, death from the skies is a better option than the terrifying alternative.
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The Sleepless by Nuzo Ohno has changed me for life. I have NEVER felt the way I did while reading this book, or for days after. I still can’t get it out of my head and it’s been almost a week. I had to wait a few days to write my review because my brain was still processing what I read. This was an absolutely amazing book. I think it may be one of my all time favorite horror books.
I haven’t read much African Horror in the past, but it is definitely on my radar now. This book was heartbreakingly terrifying. There isn’t one specific thing that makes it scary, but there are sooo many different aspects that are scary on their own that by combining them into this story, you get a story of nightmares. For real. Last night I dreamt that my son was possessed by a demon, and I think it’s because of this book!
This book has seriously gotten under my skin. In a good but terrifying way of course. The Sleepless is about a little Nigerian girl that is 6 when the book starts and 8 when it ends. During this time, she must deal with an abusive family, local superstition, and the Biafran War. I had never heard of this war before reading this book. If you haven’t either, you should definitely look it up. I had no idea. After I read the very first chapter of this book, I actually emailed the author because it was that amazingly awful (the circumstances, not the writing).
The pacing in this book is perfect. There are no points where you even have time to lose interest or feel like its dragging. It’s just one thing after another but not in an overwhelming way. Everything fits together as it should. There is quite a bit of violence in this book, so if that bothers you, this book may not be for you.
I think one of the things that makes this book so scary for me is that as I was reading it, I could picture Obelé as my own daughter of the same age. I imagined her having to experience these situations, most of which are very grown up problems. I kept having to remind myself that the main character is a child not an adult. After reading it, I found out that many of the things that happen in this book are things that actually occur in real life in that region. The belief systems are real. People there actually believe in witch doctors, sacrifice, and exorcisms. That was really hard for me to wrap my head around.
Overall, this really is an amazing book. This author has opened my eyes to things I had no idea existed and as painful as that is in some ways, I am grateful for it in other ways. It really makes you see your own situation in a different light. I will definitely be reading more by this author and I highly recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a terrifyingly realistic book. Be forewarned though, this book is definitely not for the faint of heart.