26 September, 2022

Celebrating Black History Month – LitStack Review: x0 by Sherrie Cronin

Sherrie Cronin
Cinnabar Press

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Though Lola and Somadina are hundreds of miles away from each other, they are as similar as they’re different. Lola is a geophysicist in America. She has a loving family – three kids and a husband – and a younger sister she is concerned about and trying to reach. Though money is sometimes a concern, she and her family are relatively well off. Somadina is a fortune teller in Igbo, a tribe of people in Southeastern Nigeria. She has a son, a husband that really loves her – though she’s not entirely sure if her feelings can be requited – and a younger sister she is concerned about and trying to reach. Because she lives in Igbo, she’s not as well off as Lola, but she’s still able to get by.

Lola and Somadina’s connections go deeper than their desire to help their younger sister. They can feel the other’s emotions, occasionally hear the other calling for help.

When a representative from X0 – X to the zero power – gives both a business card and tells them about the secret society dedicated to helping telepathics, both Lola and Somadina’s telepathic abilities advance. The more they learn from the website, the more powerful they become, until soon they’ll finally be powerful enough to help each other.

However, that’s only the basic gist of the plot. X0 has many sub-plots that expertly intermingle. When the story switches to Nigeria, the story is also about how Nwanyi (Somadina’s sister) copes with being married to a sick, abusive man and Ikenna’s lifestyle as a father struggling to make right all the wrongs Somadina and Nwanyi now have to deal with.

Nwanyi’s storyline is just as important as Somadina’s, considering how many times the point of view switches to all the sick plans Djimon has in store for her. When the story switches to America, the plot is as much about how Lola deals with being a wife, geophysicist, and mother as it is about her telepathic abilities and growing fixation on Nigeria.

X0 is fiction, yes, but much of it is nonfiction. By that, I mean that there are a lot of chapters/sections, some of which feel like tangents, that go into details about history or statistics. You need to be interested in Nigeria to enjoy this book.

My problem with books that are fiction with a lot of nonfiction sections is that what the author is trying to get across with the nonfiction often overshadows the plot. Should I focus on the plot, which I enjoy very much? Or should I focus on the statistics about American death rates, the question and answers about telepathy, or the mini history lessons about Nigera and oil rates? After awhile, I found it hard to anticipate both. For instance, whenever a nonfiction section happened, like the question and answers about telepathy, I skimmed because I wanted more of the plot.

The fact that this book is interactive is a double edged sword. It’s made clear from the get-go that there are 1-5 links in each chapter. These links go to photos, music, news reports, opinion pieces, and charities. 10% of the proceeds from the book go to Doctor’s Without Borders, which is really nice.

You can read the whole novel without clicking a link, since the links are there just as supplemental material. On the one hand, it’s really cool to be able to click a link in a middle of a story and learn more. On the other hand, especially if you’re reading a fiction book and the links are there just to give more info, it’s distracting. The moment I saw a link, I was taken out of the story’s world. I’m the type of reader who gets fully immersed in a story I’m reading. I forget I’m just reading a story. I convince myself I’m part of it. However, seeing a blue link and knowing I can stop reading to click it always makes me realize I’m not part of the story. I think the links are an awesome idea, but that it would perhaps work better with a nonfiction book.

X0 is a book with a great cause. I may have had issues with its execution, but execution issues are definitely a subjective matter. I recommend this book for anyone interested in Nigeria, Doctors without Borders, interactive novels, telepathy, and a story that makes it clear that people are people no matter where they are from. It’s a message we all need to keep in mind.