cover image The Furrows

The Furrows

Namwali Serpell. Hogarth, $27 (288p) ISBN 978-0-593-44891-5

In the brilliant and impressionistic latest from Serpell (The Old Drift), a young woman traverses the trenches of grief that have shaped her life. Cassandra’s younger brother, Wayne, drowned at the beach when she was 12, and his body was never found. With the steadiness of water seeking its level, Serpell explores the parallel but distinct realities Cassandra and her parents inhabit, leading up to her postcollege years: she’s forever in therapy, her mother won’t admit Wayne has died, and her father leaves them to start a new life. Whenever Cassandra is asked to retell the story, she can’t make sense of it. In a breathtaking maneuver, Serpell resets the novel again and again, cycling through possible accidents that convey Cassandra’s shock: Wayne drowns, he’s hit by a car, he’s thrown from a carousel. Then, Cassandra meets an enigmatic man she seems to know is her brother by the light in his eyes. In a series of shocking twists, Serpell shatters comfortable ideas about grief and melds Cassandra’s glittering narrative shards into a searching, unforgettable story. It’s a considerable shift from the huge canvas of her previous work, and no less captivating. P.J. Mark, Janklow & Nesbit Assoc. (Sept.)