The Madhouse

(1 customer review)



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.

André and Max have a seemingly blissful life until the boys start sharing dreams and their lives begin to unravel. Murderous thoughts, manic 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. 

About Author

TJ Benson is a Nigerian writer and portrait photographer whose work has appeared in several online journals like Jalada Africa, Expound and Bakwa magazine: in print magazines like Harvard’s Transition Magazine, Saraba’s ‘Transitions’ issue, Catapult and more recently Gay Magazine a partnership between Roxane Gay and Medium.

He was the first runner up for the 2016 Short Story Day Africa Prize themed ‘Migration’ and a two time writer-in-residence at the Ebedi Writers Residency Nigeria. His collection of short stories titled ‘We Won’t Fade Into Darkness’ was shortlisted for the Saraba Manuscript Prize in 2016 before being published by Parresia House in September 2018 and has appeared on many best debut lists. ‘The Madhouse’ is his second book.

He tweets @tjbenson_ and you can follow his work on

1 review for The Madhouse

  1. Rebel Reviewer

    The MadHouse by T J Benson: A Review

    “When they were young and still shared dreams, the younger brother woke up from a nightmare and whispered to the elder ‘I saw the future.’”

    This book is a hot mess… and for the first time in my life, I do mean that as a compliment. Why is it a hot mess, you ask? Well, the narrative is slow to the point of almost sleepy, with a meandering plot that rivals the most complicated puzzle and while being so convoluted it’ll have a mad scientist scratching their heads and yet it works… somehow. The Madhouse is a typical girl meets boy (when said girl is running away from a controlling father who is a pastor and boy is an abomination in his home town, part Islamic cleric and part almost priest), boy and girl give birth to two precious boys (who share a weird psychic connection where they share dreams in which the younger brother has a phantom twin who is trying to kill him, which prompts the elder brother to try to save him because… obviously). All this happens in a post-civil war Nigeria, with all the coups and the uncertainty just boiling over.

    I’m not quite sure what the author was inhaling/ingesting but I want some of that. While the plot is, for lack of a better word, crazy, you don’t really miss a beat while reading. The plot zips from timeline to timeline without rhyme or reason, a lot like the author read a rule book on how to write prose fiction, got annoyed with it, chucked it out of the window and decided to do a deliberate job of ignoring said rules. The result? Utter beautiful chaos, in the most sweetly poetic lines you will ever read. The different timelines meld into one cohesive, well-told story that sweeps effortlessly from Nigeria to Amsterdam and back. It manages to tell a coherent story of a unique family who find a way to love, then resent, then love again. In this way, the author is genius because he manages to make an impossible story, relatable to you, the reader, with your inherently dysfunctional life.

    The language of The Madhouse is simple and beautiful which is, quite frankly, a relief because complicated language plus complicated plot equals a mind-numbing headache for most. It is heavy on poetic prose, sentences that seem to have a mind of their own and a knack for amazing description. While the book is slow, I think the pace is just what the book requires. Trust me, a book like this will not pull off fast paced well. All together it makes for a hypnotic read that mimics a spiral, drawing you into falling in love with these impossibly broken characters and if you’re confused on some of the plot points, they’ll unravel eventually… hopefully.

    The profusion of things going on drove me batty. This is not a book you can or should read in one sitting. This isn’t because of the size, nope, the book is not more than 400 pages but if you read this book at a go, there is a really high chance that you will be overwhelmed. The pace might be slow but the writer has a lot of things happening in the book, sometimes, too many. I like to think it is the kind of book you read, and then take a break to read other books, and then resume. Now if you are a reader like me who typically has at least two books going at once, it is not much of an issue, but if you are a first time reader trying to get into literature? My advice would be to get this and a simpler book for your sanity.

    Who should buy this book? In my humble opinion, this is not a book for the casual reader. It is meant to be savored slowly and digested. A patient reader who is ready to suspend belief and simply slide into a book is the only kind of reader who will fully appreciate this book. If you are an impatient reader, stick with the Ludlums of the world.

    When should you read this book? When you have time. I cannot stress this enough. Just find a spot to chill and crack open the book, probably set an alarm so you can take breaks or something, get a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, you’re going to need refreshment.

    My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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Additional information

Weight 1.1 lbs
Author: TJ Benson