Excerpt from The Names of Things by John Colman Wood, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Names of Things

By John Colman Wood

The Names of Things
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Paperback: Apr 2012,
    276 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

It was Ado, Abudo’s wife.

He greeted. Bartu? he said. Are you strong?

Eh, she replied. She stood.

Nageni badada? Is there peace?

Badad’. There is.

Ijole urgoftu? he asked. Do the children smell good?

She suppressed a laugh. Urgoftu. They smell good.

The question was not often asked, but since he had learned it he had asked it mainly because he liked the way it sounded and he liked the meaning. Did the children smell good? Were they healthy and happy? Ado smiled whenever he asked it, and he liked to see her smile, so he had asked it every time. She lifted her hand shyly to cover her mouth.

Drink, she said and returned to the tent.

He was hungry and tired. He took a long draught of the milk. It was as good as he remembered, cool with the evening, smoke flavored from the way they preserved the containers with coals, slick on his dry throat. He knew to drink his fill and pass the bowl back. He drank half the milk and handed the bowl to Elema, who took it and held the bowl out for his wife in the tent.

The other man left. Ali turned up.

Tired from the journey, the ferenji lay on the skin beside Ali, wrapped himself in his sheet, and stared up at the stars, most of which were now hidden by black patches of cloud. It was eerie, like a negative picture. He could not see the clouds in the darkness but knew them because he could not see the stars they obscured. The sky was a map of the universe with blank areas, unknown territories—unknown to the mapmakers anyway, not to the inhabitants. The clouds were a good sign.

The milk bowl came out for Ali, who drank and passed it back. Ali lay down beside him on the cow skin.

Ali said the ferenji’s name. Said his name again. And again. He woke, grunted. Ali told him to eat. He looked up. Ali was sitting beside a bowl of meat. He could hear Elema inside the tent talking softly with his wife. He looked at his watch. It was just after one o’clock in the morning. Elema had killed a goat. He didn’t want the meat. He wanted to sleep. But he sat up and reached into the bowl, feeling for a piece, and ate it. He found and ate another. He ate several more. He ate enough to be polite. Then he lay down. He cocooned his head inside the sheet. Ali looked back at him and continued eating.

Ali knew better. Eat meat when you can eat meat.

Later he woke cold, windblown, numb from the constant rubbing of air on his skin. The camp was quiet, save the ranting of goats and sheep. They never sleep, he thought. At least not all at once. He got up and hobbled over to the camel corral. His feet were sore, his back stiff. He squatted and pissed. The sky was black, no stars. The moon would have risen but no light leaked through the clouds.

He lay back on the skin. Ali was on his side, facing the tent, asleep. It had been simple traveling. He knew what to do: Put one foot in front of the other. Now he’d come to the edge of something, and it was time to speak, but he had no words. The fear washed over him that he didn’t know his lines, hadn’t read the script, didn’t know if there was a script. On the journey he’d set aside the nagging questions about what to do by telling himself that something would come to him when he arrived. Well, he was here. He’d come halfway around the world to see these people, not because they invited him, or even expected him, but because he wanted to see them, wanted them to want to see him. He wanted them to see. And he didn’t want to make things worse. He heard but did not feel the wind, and then he felt it. He smelled the dust. Then he felt drops, big musky clops.

Ali rose with his sheet pulled over his head, open at the face, and without speaking the two lifted the skins and squeezed into the tent. Before they were inside, the air was water, and he had to breathe through his mouth not to choke.

Excerpted from The Names of Things by John C Wood. Copyright © 2012 by John C Wood. Excerpted by permission of Ashland Creek Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  The Gabra People

Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
Sign up, win books!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Take This Man
    Take This Man
    by Brando Skyhorse
    "A chorus of six men calling me Son might sound ludicrous to you, but to me it's the sound of ...
  • Book Jacket: The Hundred-Year House
    The Hundred-Year House
    by Rebecca Makkai
    Rebecca Makkai's sophomore novel The Hundred-Year House could just have easily been titled ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Valley of Amazement
    by Amy Tan
    "Mirror, Mirror on the wall
    I am my mother after all!"

    In my pre-retirement days as a professor ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

The Arsonist
by Sue Miller

Published Jun. 2014

Join the discussion!

  1.  133Tomlinson Hill:
    Chris Tomlinson

All Discussions

Win this book!
Win The Angel of Losses

The Angel of Losses

"Family saga, mystery, and myth intersect in Feldman's debut novel." - Booklist


Word Play

Solve this clue:

E C H A Silver L

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.