Chinazom Sunny Nwabueze is a leadership coach and founder of Dreamcatchers Performance.
One of the good things you immediately notice about Real Talk is that it’s short. Novella length, really. This is good because self-help books often feel like they are filling space, repeating things in different ways to make sure there are more pages, even when unnecessary.
Real Talk is brief and to the point. That said, it’s organised slightly strangely. The first chunk focuses on a (I think fictional) conversation between three male friends – Chico, Ishmael and Francisco. One of their other mates, Max, has just tried to kill himself. They spend a great deal of time having a conversation about why that’s the case and what they – or men – could do better to avoid such a scenario.
I can see why Nwabueze might try this as an approach. It’s a more narrative way of disseminating the information. Unfortunately, he’s not really a good enough writer to make it work. If you’re going to do it this way, you have to be good at writing dialogue and even plot, you’re essentially setting it up as creative non-fiction. That’s not really the case here. It all feels very on the nose and there is not enough advice, which is slightly odd for what is essentially intended to be a self-help book. My guess is that the author is trying to emulate Mitch Albom, whose bestsellers Tuesdays with Morrie and The Five People You Meet In Heaven vacillated between self-help and religiosity, utilising similar narrative devices.
Still, the ideas he’s trying to get across are interesting and valid. He is a performance psychologist and he concentrates on mental fitness. It’s good to hear mental health being talked about like the rest of the body, that you need to keep it fit to keep it healthy.
And the prompts he suggests mid-chapter and at the end of sections are good too. But as he carries on with other fictional (again, I think?) set-ups and then into the chats he has with his guardian angel, who he imagines looks like Morpheus from The Matrix, the thread gets lost slightly.
I think Nwabueze has some valuable contributions to make to the debate around mental health and fitness. He reveals that he became a father during lockdown and the struggles he battled against during that period of enforced isolation. He’s obviously trying something here, which is to be applauded. I only wish he’d be a little clearer, immersive and dynamic in what he wanted to get across in this short book. Nevertheless, we look forward to his next effort.