Book: That Reminds Me
Author: Derek Owusu
Publisher: #Merky Books
Price: £12.99 (hardback)
Review by Barbara Grant
Derek Owusu’s startling debut, That Reminds Me, shows us that love is fragile, and adults are not always the best caretakers. It is a powerful, sometimes haunting fictional memoir, about the failure of love, narrated through the eyes of a young vulnerable black boy called K.
K is placed into the care system by his Ghanaian mother. He knows not why. His early childhood years are spent in foster care, in a rural community based outside of London. A place where the colour of his skin sets him apart.
Split into five chronological sections, with a narrator who recites K’s life to Anansi, the renowned trickster in Caribbean and West African folklore, they contain fragments of stories, building up a complex picture of a troubled life.
Life in care is not the refuge his mum may have hoped. His foster home and school memories are peppered with hidden abuse, neglect and spitefulness as K struggles with his identity in a cruel, loveless foster family.
Planted in a local community that refuses to accept him into their fold with adults in authority failing to recognise the signs of parental neglect. Deprived of the nurture a young child needs, K refuses to let go of his faint memories of motherly love. He refuses to surrender to this new life and fails to understand why or how he came to be living with people with which he has very little in common.
K hopes and prays daily as he awaits his mother’s return. All the while he refuses to let go of a simmering yearning for the love of his birth mother. He clings to the belief that she will come back for him. One morning, aged six, he wakes up to find himself in a strange bed. Without notice, reason or explanation, he is on a London council estate and knows he is back home, in the heart of his family.
K’s childhood in the 1980s is marked with flawed adults and mental distress. Adults who should protect children. Instead they are portrayed as carriers of hurt, pain and unhappiness. In the 1990s, he explores his blackness, descends into alcoholism and struggles with his mental health.
A thoughtfully written book that, at times is difficult to read, especially as a parent. Be prepared as K’s voice is often intensely lonely, with a strong, deep yearning to be accepted and loved.
No words are wasted. Each one conveys purpose and meaning. Every paragraph has the ability to touch your soul, evoking involuntary – and sometimes unpredictable – emotions.
That Reminds Me is a powerful read that challenges you as it takes you on a painful journey from K’s childhood and mental collapse to recovery.