cover image Creatures of Passage

Creatures of Passage

Morowa Yejidé. Akashic, $25 (304p) ISBN 978-1-61775-876-8

A woman drives a haunted Plymouth through 1977 Washington, D.C., in Yejidé’s ambitious latest (after Time of the Locust). In the city’s Anacostia neighborhood, Nephthys Kinwell drinks to numb the pain of losing her twin brother, Osiris, and with the ghost of a girl in the trunk of her car, ferries people whose voices she hears through fog that accumulates in the car. Osiris was lynched and dumped in the Anacostia River and remains restless in death, while his 10-year-old grandson, Dash, is taunted by schoolmates for communing with a mysterious figure on the Anacostia banks only he can see, whom he calls the River Man. Then there’s a janitor at Dash’s Catholic school, Mercy Ratchet, who was sexually assaulted by a priest as a boy and now preys on young children. Yejidé creates a tapestry of interconnected stories of guilt, loss, love, grief, justice, and restoration as the story builds toward an intense climax involving Mercy and Dash, and one of Nephthys’s fares, known only as the “colonel’s wife,” confronts her own family tragedy. While at times the book can feel didactic, with the characters very obviously meant as metaphors for historical trauma, Yejidé’s prose is often stunning. At its best, the story’s rich texture evokes the ghost stories of Toni Morrison. (Mar.)