Book review: A Moonless, Starless Sky by Alexis Okeowo


A review by The Literary Llama

In A Moonless, Starless Sky Okeowo weaves together four narratives that form a powerful tapestry of modern Africa: a young couple, kidnap victims of Joseph Kony’s LRA; a Mauritanian waging a lonely campaign against modern-day slavery; a women’s basketball team flourishing amid war-torn Somalia; and a vigilante who takes up arms against the extremist group Boko Haram. This debut book by one of America’s most acclaimed young journalists illuminates the inner lives of ordinary people doing the extraordinary–lives that are too often hidden, underreported, or ignored by the rest of the world.

I love non-fiction but there aren’t a lot of non-fiction books that interest me. I’m particular about my choices, mainly the author, because a great subject could be rendered completely boring in the wrong hands. Still, when Hachette offered me a chance to read A MOONLESS, STARLESS SKY, I immediately said yes. The synopsis may be small but the promise of this book was great and I knew I had to give it a chance…and I’m so happy I did.

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Question for this article

Islamic extremism, how should it be opposed?

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A MOONLESS, STARLESS SKY is amazing. Alexis Okeowo did an excellent job with the 4 stories she told of “ordinary women and men fighting extremism in Africa”. The book was split into two sections, the first having the begining of each of the 4 stories and the second having the conclusion (what they are up until the current time) of each of the true tales. Her writing style spoke to me. It flowed and moved and informed without getting too bogged down in historical and/or geographical facts (something that has happened in other non-fiction that I have read). She told us just enough to give us an acurate picture without going overboard into a long-winded text-book like examination. The stories were about the people and Okeowo kept that in focus.
There is an amazing diversity between all the different stories. Each one highlighting different races, beliefs, genders, nationalities and how those are treated and perceived and evolving in the different regions. But even with all of those differences there is a cohesiveness. The fight against extremism in all it’s different forms, brings these stories and people together in a way. And it’s eye opening.
These are the stories of real people. They are great people and they are flawed people, struggling and yet strong, each victory great and small is worth so much. And the way these victories are accomplished can be hard to understand, simply because we will never live through such situations, but Okeowo tells them with a mixture of fact and empathy that makes all the difference. You see heroes and heroines, the beginnings and middles of violence and resistance, the fight back that may seem like another form of extremism, but through it all are the people who are doing what they feel is right. They are incredible stories.
Overall I gave A MOONLESS, STARLESS SKY 4.5 stars, although it was easy to round up in this case. I highly recommend it and hope you connect with the writing the same way I did.