The Furrows: Book summary and reviews of The Furrows by Namwali Serpell

The Furrows

A Novel

by Namwali Serpell

The Furrows by Namwali Serpell X
The Furrows by Namwali Serpell
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  • Published Sep 2022
    288 pages
    Genre: Literary Fiction

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Book Summary

Cassandra Williams is twelve; her little brother, Wayne, is seven. One day, when they're alone together, there is an accident and Wayne is lost forever. His body is never recovered.

The missing boy cleaves the family with doubt. Their father leaves, starts another family elsewhere. But their mother can't give up hope and launches an organization dedicated to missing children.

I don't want to tell you what happened. I want to tell you how it felt.

As C grows older, she sees her brother everywhere: in bistros, airplane aisles, subway cars. Here is her brother's face, the light in his eyes, the way he seems to recognize her, too. But it can't be, of course. Or can it? Then one day, in another accident, C meets a man both mysterious and familiar, a man who is also searching for someone and for his own place in the world. His name is Wayne.

Namwali Serpell's remarkable new novel captures the uncanny experience of grief, the way the past breaks over the present like waves in the sea. The Furrows is a bold exploration of memory and mourning that twists unexpectedly into a story of mistaken identity, double consciousness, and the wishful—and sometimes willful—longing for reunion with those we've lost.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"In the brilliant and impressionistic latest from Serpell, a young woman traverses the trenches of grief that have shaped her life...In a series of shocking twists, Serpell shatters comfortable ideas about grief and melds Cassandra's glittering narrative shards into a searching, unforgettable story. It's a considerable shift from the huge canvas of her previous work, and no less captivating." - Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Rather than telling the story straight, the elliptical narrative keeps revisiting the wounds that a tragedy won't stop delivering. If The Old Drift was an epic effort to outdo Marquez and Rushdie, this slippery yet admirably controlled novel aspires to outdo Toni Morrison, and it earns the comparison. It's deeply worthy of rereading and debate. Stylistically refreshing and emotionally intense, cementing Serpell's place among the best writers going." - Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"A gorgeous, surreal meditation on identity and mourning, one that squeezes the heartstrings and rarely relaxes its grip." - New York Magazine

"Enthralling...Serpell disrupts our expectations, over and over...[and] blurs the line between our dreams and our waking lives." - Oprah Daily

"This book reads like a ghost story, a murder mystery, a thriller, a redemptive love story that never loses its knife edge of danger...A daring and masterful novel about how we respond to the mystery of death." - Kiran Desai, Booker Prize–winning author of The Inheritance of Loss

"What seems at first a meditation on family trauma unfolds through the urgency of an amnesiac puzzle-thriller, then a violently compelling love story. The Furrows is a genuine tour de force." - Jonathan Lethem, author of Motherless Brooklyn

"Namwali Serpell's riveting prose urges me to believe that sometimes the true work of grief is to rupture us so thoroughly, we become capable of telling—and living—another story." - Tracy K. Smith, author of the Pulitzer prize-winner Life on Mars

This information about The Furrows was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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Author Information

Namwali Serpell Author Biography

Photo: © Peg Skorpinksi

Namwali Serpell was born in Lusaka, Zambia, and lives in New York. She received a 2020 Windham-Campbell Literature Prize, the 2015 Caine Prize for African Writing, and a 2011 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers' Award. Her debut novel, The Old Drift, won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, the Arthur C. Clarke Award for science fiction, and the Los Angeles Times's Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction; it was named one of the 100 Notable Books of 2019 by the New York Times Book Review and one of Time magazine's 100 Must-Read Books of the Year. Her nonfiction book, Stranger Faces, was a finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism. She is currently a professor of English at Harvard.

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