Customer Review

17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Needs major editing!, November 29, 2009
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This review is from: Nairobi To Shenzhen: A Novel of Love in the East (Paperback)
I expected flawless grammar and sophisticated structure from this half-brother of our Barack Obama, who is so articulate and uses the English language nearly flawlessly. However, there are so many problems with the writing in this novel as to almost keep me from reading the second half. Introductory phrases are not followed by commas, so the meanings of many sentences are confusing, and I have to re-read many sentences in order to realize their meaning. There are missing periods, extra periods, missing commas, extra commas, misspelled words, missing words, duplicated words, weird speaker tags, missing speaker tags so that one gets lost and doesn't know who is speaking in a conversation. Weirdly, the font size will change now and then for no apparent reason. And quotation marks seem to be inserted haphazardly, so the reader is never certain when a piece of dialogue has ended or is being spoken by someone else.

Point of view is something that Mr. Ndesandjo apparently has never heard of before. As readers, we are drawn to HIS point of view. It is the one we care about. Yet, as author, he swings the reader wildly from his own POV to that of almost every character in the book, leaving the reader feeling jerked about and cheated, because just as we feel an intimate connection with the author as protagonist, we are suddenly thrust into the mind of a minor character we don't particularly care about and sent off to ponder this person's childhood. Very annoying.

Mr. Ndesandjo goes off on many tangents that have caused me, now at the halfway point, to begin skimming sections in order to get to the meat of the story.

On the positive side, his descriptions of Chinese culture, the people, their values, the physical attributes of their faces, their buildings, their orphanages, their food, and their language, are quite lovely. It is what is keeping me reading.

Child abuse is an old, worn-out topic that shouldn't surprise anyone anymore, but that does not seem to be the purpose of this novel. Its purpose seems to be an expose of life in China, and I do appreciate that.

But the punctuation, oy! What publisher would allow such non-proof-read material to be printed? I don't understand and can only imagine that they and Ndesandjo himself are embarrassed at the huge number of errors. Commas and periods are like traffic signals that tell us when to pause, when to stop, when to go on. As a musician, I can't imagine that Ndesandjo would tolerate an eighth-note rest where a quarter-note rest belongs or a half note where three quarter notes belong. I am amazed and disappointed by this lack of professionalism, and I imagine his half-brother is too. Yet, the good stuff IS good.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 30, 2009 10:56:48 PM PST
Merlin says:
The obvious reason for the book is to cash in on the president's popularity. Which would be ok if Ndesanjo had dropped the worn-out child abuse thesis and hire a professional editor instead.

Posted on Dec 7, 2009 7:49:59 PM PST
Although I agree that the various punctuation/grammar errors show an incredible lack of oversight on the part of the editor, I disagree that it detracts from the writing. I have known many writers who are also terrible spellers; this does not make them bad writers. Sometimes, I think it is easy for one to get so motivated by what they are writing, grammar is forgetten; that seems to be what happened here. It just means Mr. Ndsandjo needs to find a better editor.

Posted on Jun 28, 2013 8:53:56 AM PDT
I, too, think that Mark Okoth Obama Ndesandjo is quite a gifted writer and am quite surprised at the terrible editing that someone of his gifts and level of intelligence allowed to "happen" to his final product. What came out in print is what one might see in earlier versions of someone's work, no matter how well-educated he/she is, but not in a final version.
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