Book Review: The Madhouse by TJ Benson.


Book Review: The Madhouse by TJ Benson.

A house brings two unique people together by the unlikeliest of chances. In their union, that of an almost priest and a prodigal daughter, two brothers whose bond transcend the laws of nature are born.

Andre and Max have a seemingly blissful life until the boys start sharing dreams and their lives begin to unravel Murderous thoughts, maniac dreams, and their somewhat unbreakable wandering between reality and reverie, would lead them down unknown paths that threaten to severe their family ties.

in this exhilarating and dreamy narration set against the backdrop of a tumultuous era of military rule in Nigeria, Tj Benson weaves a spellbinding tale about the clashes between cultures, the impact of fragile political situations on everyday people. and the lengths we are willing to go in order to save our loved ones.

Book Details

Format: 352 pages, Paperback

Published: February 15, 2021 by Masobe Books

ISBN: 9789789796519

Language: English

My Review of The Madhouse by TJ Benson.

Since last year, a friend of man has consistently recommended this book to me, but because of my TBR pile, I kept postponing it till this year, when I finally picked it up, and said, “It’s time.”

To be very honest, I thought the title of this book is figurative, and maybe has another connotation. But was I proved blatantly wrong? Hell yeah!

The madhouse is truly a madhouse through and through. Every single one of the occupants living in the house is mentally unstable, and I’m not even joking.

Book Review: The Madhouse by TJ Benson.

The opening scene of the book reveals a father and his two sons grieving the death of his wife and their mother, as they are trying out a recipe she left for them.

I thought maybe I was reading about a regular family, but there’s nothing regular about this family; from their unique names, to their even unique personalities. Which Nigerian kid calls their mother, sweet mother?

Set in Sabon Geri, a town in Middle belt Nigeria, there’s a street, Freetown, which has a bizarre air to it. And in the tail end of this street lies the almighty madhouse.

This is the house of a family of four; Shariff, Sweet Pea/Mother, Max and Andre. Max, the eldest son, named after the popular publishers, Macmillan, and Andre, after the wine.

With the undertones of the reality of the military regime in the 90’s Benson crafts a story that defies the conventional writing patterns and rules.

A house where a pot of stew mysteriously appears, without anyone cooking it, and disappears at will too, that is, after the family mindlessly eats from it, with reckless abandon.

Book Review: The Madhouse by TJ Benson.

A house where Sweet Mother feeds anyone she wishes to with the ‘sleep vegetable’ and they will sleep, and sleep, and sleep.

A house where the mother anoints her breast, and makes her grown up son suckle, because she feels it will put an end to his supernatural dreams.

Max and Andre have this special kind of connection that is beyond being siblings. Right from childhood, anytime Andre is in danger in his dream, Max somehow finds himself inside there, as he goes to save him.

I was startled at first when I read this part, not knowing I still had some more startling waiting for me in front to feel. And I started reading this book in the wee hours of morning, because I woke up from sleep, and couldn’t sleep back.

But after reading some parts of the book, I fell asleep, and would you believe I saw both Max and his brother in my dream? Weird right?

Maybe it was because of the surrealism of the whole thing, and my subconscious wanted to show me about it, further.

Book Review: The Madhouse by TJ Benson.

Now this special kind of connection is weird, and draining. So draining that Max barely has a life of his own.

He lives for his brother. He has the mind-set that he was born before his brother so he would take responsibility for him.

Since their mother, is a crazy artist, who displays symptoms of a mental illness from time to time, and who takes out her madness on her canvas.

And a father who is both a soldier and an alcoholic, who doesn’t give a damn about who needs saving and who doesn’t. So the only person to take up this responsibility is the oldest son, Max.

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Now this has a deeper meaning. In Nigeria, most of the time, the eldest child barely has a life of their own.

Because they have been programed early enough that their responsibility as the oldest in the family is taking care of their younger ones, they live all their lives trying to be more parent than their parents. This is wrong.

Most times the younger ones see this oldest child as their parent and saviour who already has life figured out, but it is wrong.

First born children are also children who don’t know anything about parenthood, and who definitely haven’t figured life out, yet.

I pitied Max in this book. He doesn’t have a life. He would live his entire life looking out for his brother. And to break this strange bond between them, Sweet Mother has to send him to a boarding school, but he wouldn’t stop thinking about Andre.

Book Review: The Madhouse by TJ Benson.

I feel like Max has his own traumatic experiences to face, but he sweeps them under the carpet and continue to worry about Andre, as his resentment towards his mother grows by the day.

Many years later, after becoming a pharmacist, I thought he would finally start living for himself, but no. He has to find Andre who has run away from home.

And when he travels to Amsterdam to find him, he meets a woman in a lingerie shop, and start something close to a relationship with her.

For a week, he spends quality time with a stranger, a white girl he meets, whom he doesn’t know her name.

The girl, a photographer takes pictures of Max, and even wants to marry him. With her, Max experiences something close to affection, and for a moment thinks of actually starting something serious with her and forget about Andre.

He would have his first kiss and sexual experience with her, and I thought something magical was about to happen. But boom! Andre appears, almost half dead, thwarting Max’s opportunity of traveling to America and living for himself.

I disliked Andre. I felt like he was annoying, and always depending on Max. But he, himself has a lot of issues he cannot handle by himself.

He doesn’t know the difference between the real world, and the illusion he creates for himself, and he is greatly tortured both within him and without.

Benson creates a completely different world of eccentric characters and mysterious happenings with this book.

Book Review: The Madhouse by TJ Benson.

A family, where Sweet Mother gives their visiting grandfather the sleep vegetable to take, because all he does is chores, and she wants him to rest. But he sleeps forever and they bury him behind their compound.

This book is strange. If you do not understand or love mysterious, speculative stories, I would advise you not to delve into it at all. It will mess up with your mind.

It is everything but conventional. However, I was confused most of the time trying to make meaning of everything happening. Because of the style Benson employs in the book, it tends to confuse or even put you off most of the time.

But it’s a great book after all. And you will enjoy getting to know this eccentric family living in the madhouse.

I will rate is as 4.2/5. Have you read it? What do you think about it? Please share your thoughts with me in the comment section.

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The Madhouse by TJ Benson.
The Madhouse by TJ Benson.

6 thoughts on “Book Review: The Madhouse by TJ Benson.”

  1. Finally, a review!

    I feel like anyone who wants to really take in this book would have to read it slowly, or better still, read it more than once. What Benson did with this story was amazing. And this is a well-deserved and well-written review.

  2. This sounds like an interesting read – I’m intrigued by the following of the different lives and how these intertwine, but it does sound like it can be a bit confusing at points. I do enjoy speculative fiction though so will probably give it a go!


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