The Door of No Return is a short story-like novel following Kofi Offin. He grew up in a kingdom called Asante, modern day Ghana. Kofi has a brother called Kwasi who thinks he is better at everything compared to Kofi. Eventually, Kofi gets the idea to challenge Kwasi to a swimming race as he is much better underwater. This is around the time that a wrestling competition between Upper and Lower Kwanta happens. The Kwantas are the two parts of Asante. During the match, Kwasi faces off against the heir of the Lower’s throne, Yaw. Unfortunately for Yaw, he is killed after Kwasi accidentally knocks him out cold. Lower Kwanta wants revenge. They capture both Kofi and Kwasi. Kwasi is killed by Lower while Kofi stays in prison until a group tries to free them. They are captured by Lower’s military and are taken prisoner again. Eventually, Wonderfuls, foreigners who arrived in Asante, take them on a boat. Now, it is life or death for Kofi. Will he survive or will he drown with not even his swimming skills to save him?
This book resembles real life 1850s in many ways. I can see so many similarities to African culture. Wonderfuls are foreigners and how they put Kofi and other people on the board seems to be like the Atlantic slave trade. The time period backs that up as this is the 1850s and 60s. That would mean that this is happening during European colonization of Africa. Kofi describes the flag on the boat as having 7 red stripes and 33 stars, the exact flag of the US during 1860, so this would say that Americans came to Asante to take slaves. Asante is also known to have lots of gold. Real life Ghana is Africa’s lead gold producer. During the Atlantic slave trade, Ghana was ravaged for its gold. During the Atlantic slave trade, Ghana had two sides, one that embraced the colonizers, and one that didn’t allow these people in at all, perfectly matching the book. The location of Cape Coast Castle in the book is a real life location in Ghana. Even the location of Asante matches that of modern day Ghana. So, the book was based off of modern day Ghana is 1860 when the Atlantic slave trade was happening. Kofi was kidnapped and shipped off to slavery by Americans. Seeing all these connections really shocked me. It told me that Kwame Alexander put time into this book. He did his research on Ghana and put these clues in the book, or, I guess, just tells us that it is Ghana in the author’s note, but it was fun putting all these pieces to conclude what was the story of Asante, what happened to Kofi, and a lot of other mysteries surrounding this strange, African kingdom.
My favorite part of the book was when the wrestling competition was happening and how the author described the yam festival made by the real-life Asante empire. The wrestling competition was described beautifully. The plot twist that Yaw would die was a shocker as I didn’t expect him to die, just lose. That plot twist drove the story onward and explained how Kwasi got killed. Without that, the story would lose meaning. The main tie for the story was so good and frankly the climax of the story. Ties for the story in many other books are lost and the only purpose is to hold the story together. The tie in The Door of No Return is the polar opposite of that and I love it.
Overall, I give The Door of No Return a perfect 5 out of 5. All the pages are in short bursts, around the size of the average poem, just without the rhyming. Yet, the book is 398 pages of perfection. It makes up for the lack of words on the pages with a lot of pages. That makes the book long and neat. I recommend it to anyone with a taste for historical fiction or frankly the need for a good story to read.
Reviewed by Akshith I., Twin Hickory Area Library