Book review: Mad Bad Love

Mad Bad Love


Makwala King

Melinda Ferguson Books

Review: Lauren O’Connor-May

Mad Bad Love is a raw, unfiltered memoir about addiction and the trauma that comes with loving addicts.

It is also, of sorts, a follow-up to the author’s first book Killing Karoline.

You don’t need to have read Killing Karoline to follow what is happening in Mad Bad Love, but, for those unfamiliar with it, the first book tells the true story of the author’s unorthodox adoption which took place in England.

In 1980, Karoline’s biological mother, and her husband, took the then seven-week-old baby to England under the guise of seeking help for her ill-health.

In reality, the trip was to bury secrets, specifically the secret of an affair with a black colleague and Karoline’s subsequent mixed-race identity, which is starting to manifest as she loses her newborn looks.

The grieving parents return to South Africa after the adopton and pretend that Karoline has died.

Many years later, Sara-Jayne, as Karoline is now called, returns to South Africa in search of her roots and identity.

Killing Karoline tells the story of that search and touches briefly on King’s battles with addiction and mental health as a result of her loss of identity and battles with rejection.

Since Killing Karoline’s release in 2017, King has been reunited with her biological father and given birth to her own daughter.

She has also reunited with the love of her life and father of her child, with whom she has had an on-again, off-again relationship for more than a decade.

Mad Bad Love tells the story of that relationship and, like Killing Karoline, it is the devastation of uncovered secrets that drive the story.

King’s writing is not for the faint of heart. It is shocking, brutal and uncompromisingly honest.

The story is gripping, emotional and engaging and the only minor annoyance for me was the confusing timeline.

King does not tell the story in chronological order and because she moves around the world a lot and the chronology jumps around, I was sometimes already well into a new chapter when I realised that the story had picked up from a different time-point.

Perhaps this was deliberate though – a mild way to give the reader a taste of the dizzying experience of addiction.

This book will interest anyone who wants an insider’s look at how confusing and life-shattering it is to love an addict.