Namwali Serpell

The Furrows
  • The Furrows

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

    Cassandra Williams is twelve; her little brother Wayne is seven. One day, when they're alone together, there's an accident, and Wayne is lost forever. Though his body is never recovered, their mother can't stop searching. The missing boy cleaves the family with doubt: How do you grieve an absence? And how does it feel?

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

    Namwali Serpell's piercing new novel captures the ongoing and uncanny experience of grief, as 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 masterful story of mistaken identity, slippery reality, black experience, and the wishful and sometimes willful longing for reunion with those we've lost.

Namwali Serpell was born in Lusaka and lives in New York. She has received a 2020 Windham-Campbell Prize for fiction, 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 for fiction, the Arthur C. Clarke Award for science fiction, and the Los Angeles Times' 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. Her short story, 'Take It', was a finalist for the 2020 Sunday Times Audible Short Story Award. She is a Professor of English at Harvard.

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