Synopses & Reviews
Named one of the Best Books of the Year by Dwight Garner, The New York Times • The New York Times Book Review • Time • NPR • The Atlantic • BuzzFeed • Tordotcom • Kirkus Reviews • BookPage
Winner of the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award • Winner of the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Fiction • Winner of the Windham-Campbell Prizes for Fiction
1904. On the banks of the Zambezi River, a few miles from the majestic Victoria Falls, there is a colonial settlement called The Old Drift. In a smoky room at the hotel across the river, an Old Drifter named Percy M. Clark, foggy with fever, makes a mistake that entangles the fates of an Italian hotelier and an African busboy. This sets off a cycle of unwitting retribution between three Zambian families (black, white, brown) as they collide and converge over the course of the century, into the present and beyond. As the generations pass, their lives — their triumphs, errors, losses and hopes — emerge through a panorama of history, fairytale, romance and science fiction.
From a woman covered with hair and another plagued with endless tears, to forbidden love affairs and fiery political ones, to homegrown technological marvels like Afronauts, microdrones and viral vaccines, this gripping, unforgettable novel is a testament to our yearning to create and cross borders, and a meditation on the slow, grand passage of time.
Finalist for the Los Angeles Times Ray Bradbury Prize • Longlisted for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize
“A dazzling debut, establishing Namwali Serpell as a writer on the world stage.” Salman Rushdie, The New York Times Book Review
“A story that intertwines strangers into families, which we'll follow for a century, magic into everyday moments, and the story of a nation, Zambia.” NPR
“A founding epic in the vein of Virgil’s Aeneid...though in its sprawling size, its flavor of picaresque comedy and its fusion of family lore with national politics it more resembles Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children.” The Wall Street Journal
“An intimate, brainy, gleaming epic...This is a dazzling book, as ambitious as any first novel published this decade.” Dwight Garner, The New York Times
About the Author
Namwali Serpell is a Zambian writer who teaches at the University of California, Berkeley. She received a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award for women writers and was selected for the Africa 39, a Festival project to identify the best African writers under 40. She won the Caine Prize for African Writing and the Windham-Campbell Prize for Fiction. The Old Drift is her first novel.