The Selfless Act of Breathing (Hardback)
  • The Selfless Act of Breathing (Hardback)
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The Selfless Act of Breathing (Hardback)

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£14.99
Hardback 304 Pages / Published: 04/11/2021
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Waterstones Says

Framing existential questions about the spiritually crushing weight of modern life in a beautifully wrought character study of a millennial Londoner toying with suicide, Bola’s second novel is a profound, exhilarating reading experience.   

A heartbreaking, lyrical story for all of those who have fantasised about escaping their daily lives and starting over.

Michael Kabongo is a British-Congolese teacher living in London on the cusp of two identities. On paper, he seems to have it all - he's loved by his students, popular with his colleagues, and enjoys the pride of his mother who emigrated from the Congo. But behind closed doors, he's been struggling with the overwhelming sense that he can't improve the injustices he sees - from his efforts to change the lives of his students, to his attempts to transcend the violence that marginalises young Black men around the world.

Then Michael suffers a devastating loss, and his life is thrown into a tailspin. As he struggles to find a way forward, memories of his fathers' violent death, the weight of being a refugee, and an increasing sense of dread threaten everything he's worked so hard to achieve.

Longing to escape the shadows in his mind and start anew, Michael decides to spontaneously pack up and go to America, the mythical 'land of the free,' where he imagines everything will be better, easier - a place where he can become someone new, someone without a past filled with pain. On this transformative journey, Michael travels from New York City to San Francisco, partying with new friends, sparking fleeting romances, and splurging on big adventures.

In the back of his mind, Michael has a plan: follow his dreams until the money in his bank account runs out, and then he will decide if his life is truly worth living...

Written in spellbinding prose, with Bola's trademark, magnetic storytelling, The Selfless Act of Breathing is a heart-wrenching and deeply emotional novel about mental health, masculinity and the power of love.

What people are saying about The Selfless Act of Breathing:

'Well, wow. The writing in this book was so lyrical and beautiful... I really couldn't put this book down and finished it in two days... The last page had me on the verge of tears.' NetGalley Reviewer

'I knew from the opening that this book was going to break my heart. Breathless and gripping, it is a masterclass in empathy.' Yvonne Battle-Felton

'Heartfelt and searing... Devastating and insightful... Readers will be swept up in the sheer beauty of Bola's writing.' The i

'Possessed by a daring turn of phrase and at times a beautifully powerful sense of personal poignancy... Should be pushed into the hands of friends accompanied by the question: do you feel this too?' Big Issue

'Absolutely stunning.' Elizabeth Day

'I loved this book - I lost my whole day reading - just couldn't bear to put it down!' NetGalley Reviewer

'Wonderfully tender... Bola's vulnerable, delicate writing conveys so much truth and heart about the quiet pain in our hearts.' Nikesh Shukla

'Arresting... Important and emotive... Powerfully raw.' Guardian

'A bold work with a broad scope, bravely tackling masculinity, hopelessness and despair with force and directness.' Okechukwu Nzelu

'A beautiful, absorbing read. By turns searing and quietly devastating.' Irenosen Okojie

'An emotive, brave novel that ultimately holds out the prospect of salvation, without sacrificing any of its power.' Daily Mail

'Providing a spark of hope.' Observer

'Narrated with haunting lyricism... An intimate journey through the darkest of human impulses to the gleaming flickers of love and radical hope.' Susan Abulhawa

'Bola's insightful, intimate and lyrical work has been entrancing readers... Reminiscent of Paul Beatty and Ralph Ellison.' The Bookseller

Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
ISBN: 9780349702070
Number of pages: 304
Weight: 580 g
Dimensions: 230 x 152 x 28 mm


MEDIA REVIEWS
In this wonderfully tender novel about masculinity and mental health, about being lost and finding yourself again, Bola's vulnerable delicate writing conveys so much truth and heart about how we are now, how closed we are, how much goes unsaid and the quiet pain in our hearts -- Nikesh Shukla
This book is a bold work with a broad scope, bravely tackling masculinity, hopelessness and despair with force and directness -- Okechukwu Nzelu
A beautiful, absorbing read. By turns searing and quietly devastating -- Irenosen Okojie

I knew from the opening, that this book was going to break my heart. The Selfless Act of Breathing left me breathless. It is beautifully tender. I was gripped right from the opening. The structure pacing, description, narration, and voice make this book a Masterclass in empathy. It is moving with tension multi layered like a symphony. The Selfless Act of Breathing is immersive and reflective; challenging what we might think mental health crisis looks like and who has them

-- Yvonne Battle-Felton
While this book isn't necessarily a light read, it does point to the limits of travel - a new setting doesn't erase old problems, and in some cases, it may create new ones * Independent, Best Travel Story *
The Selfless Act of Breathing feels existential and urgent as a millennial Mrs. Dalloway for a Black man who must straddle two worlds, two cultures, and two timelines, deciding where--and if--he wants to live. With prose as intimate as a private diary, as lush as spoken-word poetry, JJ Bola has artfully rendered this portrait of depression at once achingly empathetic and remarkably insightful -- Afia Atakora, American Historian Prize-winning author of Conjure Women
Narrated with haunting lyricism, The Selfless Act of Breathing is an intimate journey through the darkest of human impulses to the gleaming flickers of love and radical hope -- Susan Abulhawa, Palestine Book Award-winning author of Against the Loveless World
Bola's insightful, intimate and lyrical work has been entrancing readers... Reminiscent of Paul Beatty and Ralph Ellison * The Bookseller *
Well, wow. The writing in this book was so lyrical and beautiful... I really couldn't put this book down and finished it in two days... The last page had me on the verge of tears -- NetGalley Reviewer
I loved this book - I lost my whole day reading - just couldn't bear to put it down! -- NetGalley Reviewer
In a world that makes it difficult for many of us to articulate our suffering, The Selfless Act of Breathing is a necessary invitation to scream when we feel like screaming, cry when we feel like crying, and prioritize our own often-neglected needs for love. JJ Bola crafted a soul-shifting novel that will let millions know it's okay to not be okay, and that the one of the most rewarding, and healing, places we can travel is into ourselves. The unwavering courage and care that Bola demonstrates with this work is to be revered -- Mateo Askaripour
It's uncompromising stuff, but injections of precipitous drama - a car-jacking in LA; a doomed love affair in New York - together with unexpected flights of lyricism keep things moving. An emotive, brave novel that ultimately holds out the prospect of salvation, without sacrificing any of its power. * Daily Mail *
Arresting... Important and emotive... Powerfully raw -- Michael Donkor * The Guardian *
A heartfelt and searing exploration of depression . . . readers will be swept up in the sheer beauty of Bola's writing * Eastern Daily Press *
Possessed by a daring turn of phrase and at times a beautifully powerful sense of personal poignancy, this novel not only speaks to the people society ignores all too often, but to the feelings and frustrations we try and repress... it is one that should be pushed into the hands of friends accompanied by the question: do you feel this too? * Big Issue *
Heartfelt and searing... Devastating and insightful... Readers will be swept up in the sheer beauty of Bola's writing * The i *
In this wonderfully tender novel about masculinity and mental health, about being lost and finding yourself again, Bola's vulnerable delicate writing conveys so much truth and heart about how we are now, how closed we are, how much goes unsaid and the quiet pain in our hearts' -- Nikesh Shukla

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“Touching and poetic”

Do you read books where the protagonist has the same job as you? I realise that I almost never do read books about teachers. I'm not sure why - I have watched plenty of movies and TV series taking place in... More

Hardback edition
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“Expected the unexpected”

Thanks to NetGalley and The Publisher for this eARC in exchange for an honest review.

3.5 stars rounded up.

Wow! It seems that what ever JJ Bola turns he's hand to, he succeeds. He has cemented himself as a... More

Hardback edition
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“A man pushed to the edge”

JJ Bola explores the increasingly empty life of Michael Kabongo as he becomes increasingly disenchanted and frustrated with the world in which he lives and the everyday racism that he and his students face. The reader... More

Hardback edition
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