cover image Sankofa


Chibundo Onuzu. Catapult, $26 (304p) ISBN 978-1-64622-083-0

A middle-aged, mixed-race woman struggles with several crises in Nigerian writer Onuzu’s spellbinding latest (after Welcome to Lagos). Anna Bain is a 46-year-old Londoner whose mother, Bronwen, has just died, whose husband has been unfaithful, and who has been leading a lackluster life as a housewife. Following her white mother’s funeral, she stumbles upon a diary written in the 1960s by her West African father, Francis Aggrey, hidden in a trunk. Francis left London before Anna’s birth, and Bronwen raised her. Anna learns that her father was an international student who had boarded with Bronwen’s family and became part of a group of West African students agitating for freedom from colonial rule. After leaving London, Aggrey became a guerrilla fighter, independence leader, and eventually the first president of Bamana following independence. Anna then finds Francis’s memoir (published under his new name, Kofi Adjei) in a university archive, meets with his biographer in Edinburgh, and eventually meets Kofi in Bamana, where she seeks to resolve her conflicts over her racial and cultural identity. Onuzu’s spare style elegantly cuts to the core of her themes (“I felt at peace, as if indeed two warring streams had finally merged,” Anna reflects). The balancing of Anna’s soul-searching with her thrilling discoveries makes for a satisfying endeavor. Agent: Georgina Capel, Georgina Capel Assoc. (Oct.)