BookBrowse Reviews The Names of Things by John Colman Wood

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The Names of Things

by John Colman Wood

The Names of Things
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  • Paperback:
    Apr 2012, 276 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

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An elegiac story about coping with loss, set in the Kenyan desert

John Colman Wood's fieldwork on the Gabra nomads of the Chalbi Desert (see "beyond the book") - particularly his knowledge of their death rites - forms the foundation for the anthropologist's first novel, The Names of Things.

Like the author, the novel's protagonist (never identified beyond "he") is also an anthropologist who has studied the Gabra. The plot traces his reflections as he returns to the desert looking for solace following the death of his wife from an unnamed disease she contracted in the Kenyan outback. The book is an exploration of grief, love, and the roles ritual and community can play in coping with overwhelming loss.

The Names of Things is a beautifully written book permeated with a sense of sadness and regret, set against the backdrop of the desolate Kenyan landscape. There are two main reasons why I find myself recommending this novel. First, the author's ...

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