cover image Beyond the Door of No Return

Beyond the Door of No Return

David Diop, trans. from the French by Sam Taylor. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $27 (256p) ISBN 978-0-374-60677-0

Diop (At Night All Blood Is Black) returns with a captivating intergenerational epic influenced by Senegalese oral tradition. It begins in 1806 Paris, where botanist Michel Adanson dies, leaving his adult daughter, Aglaé, with fervent questions about who her father really was. Among his many belongings, she finds a manuscript intended for her, recounting the years Adanson spent in Senegal in his early 20s, researching flora and fauna. There, he hears a story from village chief Baba Seck about Maram, the chief’s adopted daughter who was kidnapped, sold into slavery, escaped, and returned to a nearby village. Adanson and his guide and friend Ndiek become obsessed with finding Maram, which sets them on an overland journey through the Senegalese bush. Told as a series of fast-paced stories within stories, the novel contemplates race, hierarchy, religion, legends, and possible futures for its characters and society at large. At the same time as he considers the big picture, though, Diop writes excellently of historical and regional minutiae, as in his descriptions of the sheer heat and exhaustion his characters face on their travels. This is a novel to devour quickly, but which will leave readers contemplating its story long after. Agent: Magalie Delobelle, So Far So Good Agency. (Sept.)