Okwiri Oduor’s Debut Novel Things They Lost Explores Mother-Daughter Longing

The Caine Prize winner’s forthcoming book is “suffused with Kenyan folklore and myth.”
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okwiri oduor - things they lost - Scribner slash Tristan Offit slash Jacket Art by Lisa Wright

Scribner/Tristan Offit/Jacket Art by Lisa Wright.

Things They Lost will be the Kenyan writer Okwiri Oduor’s first novel. The book features magic and myth, charting the fantastical story of Ayosa, a lonely girl who struggles to be free of her beautiful but mysterious mother.

Things They Lost will be released by Scribner in the US and Oneworld Publications in the UK.

A description reads:

Ayosa is a wandering spirit—joyous, exuberant, filled to the brim with longing. Her only companions in the Kenyan town she calls home are as lonely as Ayosa herself: the ghostly Fatumas, the sullen milkman and Sindano, the owner of a café that no one ever visits.

But a curse hangs over the women in Ayosa’s family, a curse which has blighted the life of her mother, Nabumbo Promise. When her new friend Mbui offers her an alternative life, one that would involve leaving Nabumbo Promise behind, Ayosa must decide how much she owes her fearsome, mercurial mama.  

Set at the intersection of the spirit world and the human one, suffused with Kenyan folklore and myth, Things They Lost is an unforgettable novel about mothers and daughters, about ghostly longing and about love at its most intoxicating and dangerous, from a standout new literary voice.

Okwiri Oduor. Photograph by Chelsea Bieker.
Okwiri Oduor. Photograph by Chelsea Bieker.

Okwiri Oduor’s short story “My Father’s Head” won the Caine Prize in 2014. That year, she was named on Hay Festival’s Africa39 list of 39 African writers under 40 who would define trends in African literature. Her work has appeared in Granta, The New Inquiry, and Kwani. She was a 2014 fellow at the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire and a 2015 fellow at the Art OMI Ledig House in New York. She was also a Lanan Center visiting writer at the Georgetown University in Washington DC. In 2017, she was a visiting writer for Stimmen Afrikas in Cologne and Düsseldorf. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Currently, she lives in Germany.

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Things They Lost is forthcoming in April 2022.

Paula Willie-Okafor
Paula Willie-Okafor is a staff writer at Open Country Mag. She is a student at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where she is custodian of The Writers' Community (TWC). Her writing has appeared in Kissing Dynamite Magazine and Praxis Magazine.

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