cover image Scatterlings


Rešoketšwe Manenzhe. HarperVia, $26.99 (280p) ISBN 978-0-06-326411-3

Manenzhe debuts with a poetic and wrenching story of one family’s upheaval. It’s 1927 and South Africa’s Immorality Act is about to call into question the already somewhat troubled marriage between Abram, who is white, and Alisa, who is Black, as well as the legitimacy of their two daughters. After Alisa dies by suicide in a fire that kills their younger daughter, Abram and their surviving daughter, Dido, who’s seven, flee in search of a new home. Their story frames excerpts from the journals Alisa kept as a young woman, relating her childhood born to formerly enslaved people in Jamaica, her adoption by a wealthy white English family, and her desire—guided by persistent feelings of alienation—to travel to Africa. Manenzhe steeps this saga in stories and rituals passed down from elders to children, such as Dido’s nanny, Gloria, explaining a ritual involving a pot of water used to speak to their ancestors. As Gloria and others share scenes of their ancestors’ forced migration and their sometimes fruitless search for home, the family’s quest takes on mythical proportions. “Stories never rot,” Abram says to the ever curious and imaginative Dido. Indeed, the novel feels both grounded and timeless, as Manenzhe fuses this tragedy of South Africa’s segregationist policies with a long tradition of folklore. There’s great heft to this universal story. Agent: Maria Cardona, Pontas Literary & Film. (Dec.)