The Furrows: A Novel (Hardcover)
On Our Shelves Now
How do you grieve an absence? From the award-winning author of The Old Drift, a brilliantly inventive novel that “captures the disorienting nature of grief [and] its brain-scrambling, time-altering power” (The Washington Post).
“A genuine tour de force . . . What seems at first a meditation on family trauma unfolds through the urgency of an amnesiac puzzle-thriller, then a violently compelling love story.”—Jonathan Lethem, author of Motherless Brooklyn
ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: Publishers Weekly
ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: The New York Times Book Review, The New Yorker, Time, The Washington Post, BookPage, Kirkus Reviews
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 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.
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.
About the Author
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.
"A triumph . . . so visceral it leaves the reader breathless.”—New York Magazine
“A novel that reclaims and refashions the genre of the elegy, charging it with as much eros as pathos.”—The New Yorker
“With warmth and dexterity, Serpell has crafted a narrative that underscores how loss can show us the depths of our love.”—Time
“Intimate . . . a miasmic journey through grief and identity, terror and uncertainty, that is finely and compellingly wrought.”—Los Angeles Times
“‘The Furrows’ is an English major’s dream date. Serpell taps influences across genres, from Virginia Woolf to Dashiell Hammett to Toni Morrison.”—The Star Tribune
“Surreal and magical . . . confirms Serpell’s place as one of the most innovative and intelligent writers today.”—Financial Times
“A wrenching examination of grief, memory, and reality . . . Let this breathtaking novel roll over you in waves.”—Esquire
“Is there anything more exciting than an artist in their prime? The Furrows follows Namwali Serpell’s tremendous debut . . . with an even more intimate, subversive novel . . .”—Chicago Tribune
“A gorgeous, surreal meditation on identity and mourning, one that squeezes the heartstrings and rarely relaxes its grip.”—Vulture
“A powerful exploration of grief, memory, and loss that becomes part of a larger story of Black identity and double consciousness.”—Poets & Writers
“Enthralling . . . Serpell [is] utterly unafraid to fuse and forge genres, turning up the levels of suspense, mystery, and even romance.”—The A.V. Club
“This extraordinary new novel explores love, loss, and longing in new and unexpected ways.”—Ms.
“[A] gorgeous new novel about grief, hope, and what W.E.B. Du Bois called ‘double consciousness.’”—The Philadelphia Inquirer
“Already earning its author comparisons to Toni Morrison. . . Destined to end up on every Best of the Year list.”—Lit Hub
“Serpell continues to expand the possibilities of what literature can accomplish.”—Booklist
“Stylistically refreshing and emotionally intense, cementing Serpell’s place among the best writers going.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“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
“A genuine tour de force.”—Jonathan Lethem
“A piercing, sharply written novel about the conjuring power of loss."—Raven Leilani
“Riveting.”—Tracy K. Smith
“A triumph, a book that succeeds brilliantly in reconfiguring and retuning itself.”—Jamel Brinkley
“Thrilling [in] its ability to constantly surprise and keep us on the edge of our seats.”—Maaza Mengiste
“Who could have imagined that a novel about loss and long grieving could be so soaring, so sexy, so luminously beautiful and poetic.”—Neel Mukherjee
“A deeply felt novel that deserves to be read.”—Nicole Dennis-Benn