What We Thought: This is a story of a family. The shadow – or perhaps footprint – of Kweku Sai, whose death opens the narrative, marks the remaining characters like a bruise. The past is part of the present for the cast of complex, damaged individuals who draw you into their worlds.
The fractured structure, the geographical spread, the atmospheric evocation of locations and relations are handled with confidence and grace. For a debut novelist, Selasi’s talent cannot fail to impress. This story is beautifully written and reaches the reader’s sensibilities via sensory and emotional faculties.
The gradual reveals of how-we-got-here is handled with all the subtlety and sleight-of-hand of a classic crime writer, while the revelations of how familial and cultural ties leave (in)visible marks touched me and made me think, as does the very best literary fiction.
These characters are certainly interesting to the reader, but so much more so to themselves. So I finished this with a sense of privilege of having being allowed into these heads, but also a sense of gratitude for being allowed back into the wider world. Taiye Selasi has undeniable talent and I will be eager to see how she develops.
You’ll enjoy this if you like: Half of a Yellow Sun (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie), Things Fall Apart (Chinua Achebe), Brick Lane (Monica Ali), On Beauty (Zadie Smith), Ghost Town (Catriona Troth)
Avoid if you don’t like: Jumping narrative, introspective writing, epic family sagas
Ideal accompaniments: Gin and tonic, tropical fruit salad and Youssou N’Dour
Genre: Literary fiction