Kwame Alexander’s Ghana-set historical middle grade novel, The Door of No Return (3.5 hours), unfolds from the perspective of an 11-year-old boy named Kofi, whose story focuses on his family, his village and a special girl named Ama. Ghanaian British actor Kobna Holdbrook-Smith brings spellbinding intensity and strong, authentic accents to his narration, breathing life into both the young narrator and his storytelling grandfather. Well-performed side characters provide the backdrop, and the humorous nasal tone of the culturally brainwashed schoolteacher brings comic relief.
Holdbrook-Smith emphasizes the rhythm of Alexander’s novel, much of it told in verse, with charming, dramatic and aesthetic effects that endear Kofi to the listener. At times, listeners must pay close attention, as the story moves quickly, and names, dates and section titles run the risk of being missed, but listeners will be rewarded for their efforts.