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Things They Lost

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Named a Most Anticipated Book by Vogue and Vulture “Alternately whimsical, sweet, and dark,” this astonishing debut novel about a lonely girl waiting for her mother “brim[s] with uncompromisingly African magical realism” (The New York Times). Ayosa is a wandering spirit—joyous, exuberant, filled to the brim with longing. Her only companions in her grandmother’s crumbling ho Named a Most Anticipated Book by Vogue and Vulture “Alternately whimsical, sweet, and dark,” this astonishing debut novel about a lonely girl waiting for her mother “brim[s] with uncompromisingly African magical realism” (The New York Times). Ayosa is a wandering spirit—joyous, exuberant, filled to the brim with longing. Her only companions in her grandmother’s crumbling house are as lonely as Ayosa herself: the ghostly Fatumas, whose eyes are the size of bay windows, who teach her to dance and wail at the death news; the Jolly-Annas, cruel birds who cover their solitude with spiteful laughter; the milkman, who never greets Ayosa and whose milk tastes of mud; and Sindano, the kind owner of a café no one ever visits. Unexpectedly, miraculously, one day Ayosa finds a friend. Yet she is always fixed on her beautiful mama, Nabumbo Promise: a mysterious and aloof photographer, she comes and goes as she pleases, with no apology or warning. Set at the intersection of the spirit world and the human one, Things They Lost sets out a rich and magical vision of “girlhood as a time of complexity, laced with unparalleled creativity and expansion” (Vogue). Heartbreaking, elegant, and written in “giddily exuberant prose” (Financial Times), it’s a story about connection, coming-of-age, and the dizzying dualities of love at its most intoxicating and all-encompassing.


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Named a Most Anticipated Book by Vogue and Vulture “Alternately whimsical, sweet, and dark,” this astonishing debut novel about a lonely girl waiting for her mother “brim[s] with uncompromisingly African magical realism” (The New York Times). Ayosa is a wandering spirit—joyous, exuberant, filled to the brim with longing. Her only companions in her grandmother’s crumbling ho Named a Most Anticipated Book by Vogue and Vulture “Alternately whimsical, sweet, and dark,” this astonishing debut novel about a lonely girl waiting for her mother “brim[s] with uncompromisingly African magical realism” (The New York Times). Ayosa is a wandering spirit—joyous, exuberant, filled to the brim with longing. Her only companions in her grandmother’s crumbling house are as lonely as Ayosa herself: the ghostly Fatumas, whose eyes are the size of bay windows, who teach her to dance and wail at the death news; the Jolly-Annas, cruel birds who cover their solitude with spiteful laughter; the milkman, who never greets Ayosa and whose milk tastes of mud; and Sindano, the kind owner of a café no one ever visits. Unexpectedly, miraculously, one day Ayosa finds a friend. Yet she is always fixed on her beautiful mama, Nabumbo Promise: a mysterious and aloof photographer, she comes and goes as she pleases, with no apology or warning. Set at the intersection of the spirit world and the human one, Things They Lost sets out a rich and magical vision of “girlhood as a time of complexity, laced with unparalleled creativity and expansion” (Vogue). Heartbreaking, elegant, and written in “giddily exuberant prose” (Financial Times), it’s a story about connection, coming-of-age, and the dizzying dualities of love at its most intoxicating and all-encompassing.

30 review for Things They Lost

  1. 5 out of 5

    Lisa of Troy

    Lost On Me Unfortunately, I felt like this book was boring, and I have struggled to put my finger on exactly the reasons (but here goes). Things They Lost is written in the third person, and I really believe that it would have been better off written in the first person. There are scenes which should be highly emotional; however, they fall flat. It felt like I was reading a newspaper article which meant that I didn’t connect very well to the characters. The author does a lot of telling versus sho Lost On Me Unfortunately, I felt like this book was boring, and I have struggled to put my finger on exactly the reasons (but here goes). Things They Lost is written in the third person, and I really believe that it would have been better off written in the first person. There are scenes which should be highly emotional; however, they fall flat. It felt like I was reading a newspaper article which meant that I didn’t connect very well to the characters. The author does a lot of telling versus showing. For example, one of the characters constructs something over a course of days, and no one seems to notice. That should have been a big scene. It was glossed over in a few paragraphs. It would have been much more poignant to really describe the experience, play-by-play, glimpsing the character’s emotions of putting her heart and soul into a project, only to be ignored by the person she loves most in the world. There is also too much wriggling with some version of the word mentioned 30 times and mud more than 40 (this is an ARC so the final word count might be more or less). Also, in the format that I read, there were no quotation marks when the characters were speaking. I have a difficult time tracking with my eyes so this was disorientating for me. In some regards, the author was too obvious. For example, there was a confrontation in a church, and the characters then sat down and started to process the events that just occurred, stating the obvious. This took away from my experience as a reader. The author has a strong command of nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs with a very diverse vocabulary and has very flowery prose. The author is clearly very capable, but this book just wasn’t my cup of tea. *Thanks, NetGalley, for a free copy of this book in exchange for my fair and honest opinion. 2022 Reading Schedule Jan Animal Farm Feb Lord of the Flies Mar The Da Vinci Code Apr Of Mice and Men May Memoirs of a Geisha Jun Little Women Jul The Lovely Bones Aug Charlotte's Web Sep Life of Pi Oct Dracula Nov Gone with the Wind Dec The Secret Garden Connect With Me! Blog Twitter BookTube Facebook

  2. 4 out of 5

    emma

    just got an e-arc of this because my life is perfect ❤️

  3. 5 out of 5

    LONELY TOURIST

    I don't have words for how gorgeous this book is: I took my time with it because I wanted to make sure I gave it the attention it deserved. I wanted to savor every word. I've read a lot of knockout debuts, but Okwiri Oduor is in a league of her own with this one. If you're into stories about women and girls and the gorgeous, messy roles they fill for each other, which I'm thinking is most of my following here, pre-order it yesterday. Thank you SO much for the ARC, NetGalley. I don't have words for how gorgeous this book is: I took my time with it because I wanted to make sure I gave it the attention it deserved. I wanted to savor every word. I've read a lot of knockout debuts, but Okwiri Oduor is in a league of her own with this one. If you're into stories about women and girls and the gorgeous, messy roles they fill for each other, which I'm thinking is most of my following here, pre-order it yesterday. Thank you SO much for the ARC, NetGalley.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    I'd read this described as magical realism, but I don't think it's that, rather it describes the effect of trauma and the psychological strategies humans use to survive it, using as its patterns the Kenyan folkloric and cultural motifs natural to its protagonist. I enjoyed the way the story flowed and gradually opened out, integrating the reader into the experience of the main character's disintegration and reintegration. It's dark and painful at times, but ultimately hopeful, full of love and co I'd read this described as magical realism, but I don't think it's that, rather it describes the effect of trauma and the psychological strategies humans use to survive it, using as its patterns the Kenyan folkloric and cultural motifs natural to its protagonist. I enjoyed the way the story flowed and gradually opened out, integrating the reader into the experience of the main character's disintegration and reintegration. It's dark and painful at times, but ultimately hopeful, full of love and compassion.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Debbie

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Things they lost by Okwiri Oduor Tells the story of a lonely girl living in a small African town and struggle to free herself from her mother. Ayosa is a wandering spirit joyous, exuberant, filled to the brim with longing. Her only companion in her grandmother's crumbling house are as Ayosa herself: the ghostly Fatumas, whose eyes are the size of bay windows, who teach her to dance and wail at the death news.This story is filled with mystery and magic. ✨ Things they lost by Okwiri Oduor Tells the story of a lonely girl living in a small African town and struggle to free herself from her mother. Ayosa is a wandering spirit joyous, exuberant, filled to the brim with longing. Her only companion in her grandmother's crumbling house are as Ayosa herself: the ghostly Fatumas, whose eyes are the size of bay windows, who teach her to dance and wail at the death news.This story is filled with mystery and magic. ✨

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ellen-Arwen Tristram

    REVIEW TO COME! In the meantime, I'll whet your appetite with a few mysterious quotes... 'Her shinbones were made of paper. Different people's shinbones were made of different things. Some people's shinbones were made of bamboo flutes, and some people's shinbones were made of copper wire, and some people's shinbones were made of lemongrass stalks. She knew that her shinbones were made of paper because she knew the story of herself.' 'Their hair was made of cobwebs. Their eyes were bay windows, an REVIEW TO COME! In the meantime, I'll whet your appetite with a few mysterious quotes... 'Her shinbones were made of paper. Different people's shinbones were made of different things. Some people's shinbones were made of bamboo flutes, and some people's shinbones were made of copper wire, and some people's shinbones were made of lemongrass stalks. She knew that her shinbones were made of paper because she knew the story of herself.' 'Their hair was made of cobwebs. Their eyes were bay windows, and when you looked into them, you saw fruit bats and toadstools and tadpoles dangling from gnarled fig branches.' 'My love for you is deep, but even then, it's not always so. Sometimes my love for you is lukewarm at best. And sometimes I feel nothing for you. Nothing at all. I search inside myself for that hot, scalding love and it's not there anymore.' Intrigued anyone?

  7. 4 out of 5

    Mansi V

    3.5 stars Whilst fantasy isn't my go-to genre, the Kenyan folklore weaved in throughout the story actually made this a beautifully written and compelling read (at the beginning). Although it was written in the 3rd person. Okwiri Odour managed to perfectly capture the innocence and naïveté of the young Ayosa, whilst also creating complex characters haunted by generational trauma. The use of a small village setting added to the connection with the characters. However, this book requires a lot of a 3.5 stars Whilst fantasy isn't my go-to genre, the Kenyan folklore weaved in throughout the story actually made this a beautifully written and compelling read (at the beginning). Although it was written in the 3rd person. Okwiri Odour managed to perfectly capture the innocence and naïveté of the young Ayosa, whilst also creating complex characters haunted by generational trauma. The use of a small village setting added to the connection with the characters. However, this book requires a lot of attention and disappointingly I found around halfway through the book, I started to lose interest and didn't reach for the book as much. The ending also somehow felt rushed whilst also feeling dragged out.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Deborah

    On the outskirts of a small town in Kenya, 12-year-old Ayosa lives in the crumbling mansion built by her white great-grandmother and waits for her photographer mother to return from her increasingly long absences. Ayosa is left alone for months at a time and is monumentally sad and lonely, though she is looked in on and sometimes fed by a few of the neighbours. Heavily freighted with magical realism and African folklore, this is the story of four generations of a blighted family of women, who ea On the outskirts of a small town in Kenya, 12-year-old Ayosa lives in the crumbling mansion built by her white great-grandmother and waits for her photographer mother to return from her increasingly long absences. Ayosa is left alone for months at a time and is monumentally sad and lonely, though she is looked in on and sometimes fed by a few of the neighbours. Heavily freighted with magical realism and African folklore, this is the story of four generations of a blighted family of women, who each pass, mother to daughter, their burden of sorrow and guilt and anger. As Ayosa waits for her mother to return, she explores her surroundings and probes the past; she’s gifted with an ability to see things that happened even before her birth and starts to put together the past events that birthed the sorry present. I enjoy magical realism judiciously applied, but it was laid on with a trowel here, in my opinion seriously detracting from the vein of narrative.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Gregory

    wow wow wow I won this in a giveaway and cannot wait to read it! The synopsis sounds great and definitely something I know I will enjoy.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    Okwiri Odour’s Things They Lost slowly, but artfully, tells the story of four generations of the Brown family in fictional Mapeli Town, somewhere in Africa. It opens in 1988 on Epitaph Day, a day of collective memories and grief when people call out the names of all those they have lost. Young, book-loving Ayosa Ataraxis Brown desperately needs to feel wanted by her mother Nabumbo Promise Brown, who comes and goes like tumbleweed. Even during her rare time at home, Nabumbo Promise disappears ins Okwiri Odour’s Things They Lost slowly, but artfully, tells the story of four generations of the Brown family in fictional Mapeli Town, somewhere in Africa. It opens in 1988 on Epitaph Day, a day of collective memories and grief when people call out the names of all those they have lost. Young, book-loving Ayosa Ataraxis Brown desperately needs to feel wanted by her mother Nabumbo Promise Brown, who comes and goes like tumbleweed. Even during her rare time at home, Nabumbo Promise disappears inside herself, suffering from her own troubled past and making promises she never keeps. Odour gradually unwinds the complex story not only of mother and daughter, but also of Nabumbo Promise’s sister Rosette and brother Maxwell Truth, grandmother Lola Freedom Brown, and great-grandmother Mabel Brown, the white British Colonial woman who, in the early 1900s built the large, now-decaying home Ayosa too often lives in alone. “Sitting on the groaning staircase inside the decaying manor, was the loneliest girl in the world,” Odour writes. Ayosa’s only company are the Fatumas, originally Indian Ocean sea creatures, who now hide in the attic and console Ayosa, dancing chakacha for all the world’s missing mothers and ‘for all the daughters left at home waiting.” Although Nabumbo Promise Brown orders Ayosha to avoid other people and never to go into town, the girl finds ways to connect with the larger world whether listening to the radio as Ms. Temperance recites aching poetry that speaks to the broken-hearted child, visiting Sindano in her Mutheu Must Go Café where no customer ever comes, or befriending Mbiu, the girl whose mother had been shot full of holes and ended up looking like a carrot grater. In a magical world in which jolly anna birds in the yard mockingly scream “Jolly anna ha-ha-ha,” in which wraiths threaten to steal people away by tempting them with whatever it is that those people most want or need, Ayosa seeks a place in the world—a place where she belongs, where others need and love her. Those willing to read every vivid, poetic word, suspend disbelief, and enter a strange—yet strangely real—world haunted by its British colonial past will find themselves rooting for Ayosa Ataraxis Brown and her fight for a better life worth living. Thanks to NetGalley and Scribner for an advance reader copy of this highly recommended novel.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    I really enjoyed this book, it was so beautiful and having gone into it completely blind I didn’t know what to expect. Things They Lost cover so many important themes, it’s a book about family, friendship, loss and loneliness. There’s a magical element to the book aswell which I did really like as it is woven into the story perfectly. I really felt for the main character Ayosa throughout the book, this book definitely took turns I wasn’t expecting at all and I did find myself emotional in parts. I I really enjoyed this book, it was so beautiful and having gone into it completely blind I didn’t know what to expect. Things They Lost cover so many important themes, it’s a book about family, friendship, loss and loneliness. There’s a magical element to the book aswell which I did really like as it is woven into the story perfectly. I really felt for the main character Ayosa throughout the book, this book definitely took turns I wasn’t expecting at all and I did find myself emotional in parts. I know the writing style is one that took me a couple of pages to get used to, it is a book that is beautifully descriptive and overall I think the story is definitely one that had me thinking alot. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what Okwiri Oduor releases next😊 The cover of Things They Lost is seriously beautiful and eye catching💜 It’s certainly a book that I would like to reread again at some point.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Katharine Bubbear

    This book hooked me immediately - Oduor writes so evocatively. The story was at once relatable - with its exploration of complicated mother/daughter relationships and the bonds between friends - and completely fantastical, almost mythical. I could lose myself for hours in the world she has created. My only criticism (no spoilers here) is that it ended quite abruptly. I like an unresolved storyline (I’m all for bold choices), but I’d become so invested in the characters’ stories that I wish there This book hooked me immediately - Oduor writes so evocatively. The story was at once relatable - with its exploration of complicated mother/daughter relationships and the bonds between friends - and completely fantastical, almost mythical. I could lose myself for hours in the world she has created. My only criticism (no spoilers here) is that it ended quite abruptly. I like an unresolved storyline (I’m all for bold choices), but I’d become so invested in the characters’ stories that I wish there’d been more of a resolution.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Eli Brooke

    (bookseller - advanced reader copy) GORGEOUSly written, intricate, funny and uplifting despite dealing head-on with historical & generational trauma

  14. 4 out of 5

    Shradha

    When I was in high school, I read a book called "The House of Spirits" by Isabel Allende. It was my first introduction to the genre of magical realism, yet I never quite found another book that had the same draw, the same wonder as "The House of Spirits." With Okwiri Oduor's "Things They Lost," I think I have finally found the same kind of atmosphere and magic that I experienced all those years ago. "Things They Lost" tells the story of Ayosa Ataraxis Brown, the twelve-year-old daughter of Nabumb When I was in high school, I read a book called "The House of Spirits" by Isabel Allende. It was my first introduction to the genre of magical realism, yet I never quite found another book that had the same draw, the same wonder as "The House of Spirits." With Okwiri Oduor's "Things They Lost," I think I have finally found the same kind of atmosphere and magic that I experienced all those years ago. "Things They Lost" tells the story of Ayosa Ataraxis Brown, the twelve-year-old daughter of Nabumbo Promise Brown, and the latest addition to the matriarchal Brown family started by the enigmatic and cruel Mabel Eudoxia Brown in the 1900s. But Ayosa doesn't just inherit the Brown's legacy and name. She also inherits the cycle of mother-daughter neglect and abuse, the crushing loneliness of wanting to be loved by someone who fails to love themselves, and the casual violence it engenders. When Ayosa makes a friend of a "throwaway" girl Mbiu Dash, she finds her first hope of breaking this circle, and freeing herself from the thrall of her mercurial mother. Reading through other reviews of this book, I have noticed a common criticism is that there is little plot or action to this book, and to a certain extent, that is true. However, if one is familiar with the genre of post-colonial magic realism, one would understand that the focus of this genre is not often the development of the plot, but rather the development of the characters and the heavy-handed and ubiquitous symbolism. Ayosa's twisted and toxic relationship with Nabumbo that both fails and goes beyond that of mother-daughter, her status as the great-granddaughter of an unapologetic colonizer, even the importance of the middle names of all the generations of the Brown family could be fodder for several essays worth of literary analysis. In fact, I would not be surprised if this book one day finds itself in classrooms examining East African literature; this book is just so perfect and lends itself to that purpose. But just because this book is perfect for academic reasons, does not mean that it does not entertain. Oduor is a master of tone in this novel, deftly creating a dark, dreary, atmosphere filled with little moments of wonder and fantasy. It's a heavy book, and it took me a long time to finish because I found myself reading certain parts over again, trying to make sure that I took in the entirety of what was trying to be said. I loved reading the magic Oduor created in little moments, of a woman using a speculum to prop up her collapsing larynx, of "wriggling things" being present in each dark and lonely moment of some of the main character's lives, and of wraiths ready to kidnap someone in a moment of weakness. I did feel like I still missed out on some items, since this book does rely heavily on East African folklore, of which I have only superficial knowledge, but what I did catch on to, I thoroughly enjoyed. I received this book through a Goodreads First Reads giveaway. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    Things They Lost is a beautifully written debut novel that easily blurs the lines of reality with the spiritual world. Set on the outskirts of a town in Kenya, this story follows Ayosa Ataraxis Brown, a lonely girl who is grappling with her need to be loved and wanted by a mother who constantly abandons her for months at a time. Ayosa’s destructive relationship with her mother, Nabumbo Promise Brown is the central theme of the novel, with a deep exploration of complicated mother/daughter relation Things They Lost is a beautifully written debut novel that easily blurs the lines of reality with the spiritual world. Set on the outskirts of a town in Kenya, this story follows Ayosa Ataraxis Brown, a lonely girl who is grappling with her need to be loved and wanted by a mother who constantly abandons her for months at a time. Ayosa’s destructive relationship with her mother, Nabumbo Promise Brown is the central theme of the novel, with a deep exploration of complicated mother/daughter relationships seen throughout all four generations of the Brown family, capturing complex characters who are haunted by trauma. Seeking the love and affection that is absent from her life, Ayosa finds ways to connect with others, listening to the poetry read by Ms Temperance on the radio, visiting Sindano in her café, trying and failing to start a conversation with the milkman, and by befriending Mbui, a throwaway girl. Desperately searching for a place where she belongs, and where others need, love and care for her, she often falls victim to the wraiths who kidnap people by tempting them with whatever it is that those people most want or need. The magical elements are subtly woven in to the story giving it an almost realistic effect alongside the Kenyan folklore. Ayosa’s gift of processing memories and remembering her time in the Yonder Days as a wriggly thing provides us with vivid descriptions of the African landscape and its people between then and the present day. The writing style holds a captivating, lyrical quality with surreal, visceral imagery that fits well with the story being told. There are no speech marks in this, which I hardly noticed, but I know that can make reading difficult for others. A stunning debut exploring relatable topics of mother and daughter relationships, sisterhoods, the depth of friendships and finding your true worth woven together with fantastical and mythical elements. Thanks so much to @tandemcollectiveuk and @oneworldpublications for the opportunity to take part in this readalong.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Dawn Michelle

    Read Around the World: Kenya What. THE. HECK? I had great hopes for this book, but it just wasn't for me. I couldn't connect with the characters, the story, the whole thing. I kept wanting to love this, then even like it and it just didn't happen. I just finished it and I absolutely cannot tell you what it was about and really can only remember one character and one of the stories within the story [it is pretty unforgettable so there is that]. I felt this was disjointed and chaotic and well, it j Read Around the World: Kenya What. THE. HECK? I had great hopes for this book, but it just wasn't for me. I couldn't connect with the characters, the story, the whole thing. I kept wanting to love this, then even like it and it just didn't happen. I just finished it and I absolutely cannot tell you what it was about and really can only remember one character and one of the stories within the story [it is pretty unforgettable so there is that]. I felt this was disjointed and chaotic and well, it just didn't work for me. I am really disappointed to be honest. This was one book I was really looking forward to. Thank you to NetGalley, Okwiri Oduor, and Scribner for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Lu

    Totally worth the hype. I listened to the audiobook instead of reading and it was a good choice. Christel Mutombo is now on top of my list of favorite readers, and I can't wait to find something else she lends her voice to. She's almost hypnotic without ever seeming dramatic, and even though I tried, she didn't put me to sleep. The story is often brutal, that's true. But there's so much more beauty than pain, and beauty even in some of the pain. When a writer's voice is described as "poetic", I'm s Totally worth the hype. I listened to the audiobook instead of reading and it was a good choice. Christel Mutombo is now on top of my list of favorite readers, and I can't wait to find something else she lends her voice to. She's almost hypnotic without ever seeming dramatic, and even though I tried, she didn't put me to sleep. The story is often brutal, that's true. But there's so much more beauty than pain, and beauty even in some of the pain. When a writer's voice is described as "poetic", I'm sometimes not particularly eager to read the book. In this case it's true, and it works very well. The whole tale is an enchantment, a song, an epic prose poem.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Edward ott

    Managed to slog through about a quarter of the way through and decided to quit as I did not care about about the characters nor could I find a plot.

  19. 5 out of 5

    AParker Art

    Other users said this book was “boring.” I think that’s a sign of a boring person. You have to be open-minded with this one because the writing style is unique, but as the story unfolds it makes more sense. Definitely not boring.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Alexandria

    Stunning language, stunning story, stunning characters. Everything I ever wanted in a novel.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This novel started off promisingly and I read the first half quickly, but had run out of steam towards the end. The prose is captivating, with a hypnotic poetic quality. The description of the African landscape and it's people is vivid and evocative, although hard to place exactly. The strong element of mystic fantasy pervades the storyline which is at times compelling and at others perplexing. The current of the river runs strong throughout. This is where the 'things they lost' end up and can b This novel started off promisingly and I read the first half quickly, but had run out of steam towards the end. The prose is captivating, with a hypnotic poetic quality. The description of the African landscape and it's people is vivid and evocative, although hard to place exactly. The strong element of mystic fantasy pervades the storyline which is at times compelling and at others perplexing. The current of the river runs strong throughout. This is where the 'things they lost' end up and can be found. Set in the mid 1980s, the action flits between 'yonder days' and the present. I found it hard to really connect with any of the characters, even Ayosa. Her destructive relationship with her mama Nabumbo Promise Brown is the central theme of the novel, but after a while this wore thin. I had little sympathy for either by the end. The theme of sisterhood is also explored through the latter's relationship with her twin Rosette Temperance and her daughter, along with Ayosa and her friend Mbui. What saves this book is the strong element of humour. I enjoyed the scenes in the 'Our Lady of Lourdes' church services in which the priest, Dorcus and the townspeople feature. The most likeable character by far is Sindano who runs the local cafe and stands in as a mother figure for Ayosa. Also Jentrix and her daughter Temerity who keep a watchful eye. I was disappointed in the ending which tails off and is somewhat of an anticlimax. However, there is no doubt that the author is a talented writer. I await with interest her future endeavours.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Michaela

    Ayosa is a lonely girl, but she is also a girl who understands the power in being lonely. Living on the outskirts of a Kenyan village Ayosa grapples with her loneliness, her strained relationship with her mother, and how she can forge her own path. While I did find the writing in this book to be beautiful and unique, ultimately not a whole lot happened (even by literary fiction standards) and so it struggled to hold my interest for any extended periods of time. It just felt like I was being throw Ayosa is a lonely girl, but she is also a girl who understands the power in being lonely. Living on the outskirts of a Kenyan village Ayosa grapples with her loneliness, her strained relationship with her mother, and how she can forge her own path. While I did find the writing in this book to be beautiful and unique, ultimately not a whole lot happened (even by literary fiction standards) and so it struggled to hold my interest for any extended periods of time. It just felt like I was being thrown from one scene to the next for the majority of the narrative. Also, though this might have been an e-arc formatting issue, there were no chapter breaks and no quotation marks to denote dialogue (this I would not mind but there was also no separation of any sort between dialogue and everything else which made it a bit difficult to get through, again though this may simply have been an e-arc issue). The plot seemed to struggle to move forward, along with our character's development, it was hard to get a grip on-always one step forward, two steps back which got frustrating. Then, after a slow build up the ending somehow felt rushed, as if it wasn't decided until the last minute, which made for an unsatisfying finish. I did enjoy the exploration of Ayosa's relationships with Mbiu, Sindano and Jentrix, I found them to be nuanced and full of conflicting emotions which are fun to explore. However, despite being the central focus for a lot of the narrative, her relationship with her mother grew tiresome and repetitive fairly quickly. Although it did take me a while to get used to and immerse myself in Oduor's writing style, once I did it was largely enjoyable in its flow and stark uniqueness. It lent itself nicely to the kind of story being told- lots of visceral, almost surreal imagery and uncomfortably close observations of the natural (and supernatural) world and the ugly side of human nature. While I can appreciate the beauty of the writing, the pacing and characterisation issues took from my enjoyment of this book, in the end I think it just wasn't quite the book for me. Thank you NetGalley and Oneworld Publications for my e-arc of this title, received in exchange for an honest review.

  23. 4 out of 5

    D

    I had a hard time connecting with this book. A lot of magical realism might be the term? Despite the waiths who try to steal ayosa's body for themselves (ok that's the magical realism piece and I can swallow that bc I've read other books with this) she has a mom who leaves her completely alone for months at a time with no one in charge? I just couldn't get my head around the supposed real life happenings. I will say it was beautifully written tho. I had a hard time connecting with this book. A lot of magical realism might be the term? Despite the waiths who try to steal ayosa's body for themselves (ok that's the magical realism piece and I can swallow that bc I've read other books with this) she has a mom who leaves her completely alone for months at a time with no one in charge? I just couldn't get my head around the supposed real life happenings. I will say it was beautifully written tho.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Louise

    4+ stars An absolute delight of a book,that's full of mystery and magic. Full of strong females,that also happen to be more than a bit mad. Full of stories so strange,I had to reread a lines a second time to make sure I'd read it right. Some one liners that actually made me laugh out loud. And made me want yo start most of my sentences with "because". Excellent. 4+ stars An absolute delight of a book,that's full of mystery and magic. Full of strong females,that also happen to be more than a bit mad. Full of stories so strange,I had to reread a lines a second time to make sure I'd read it right. Some one liners that actually made me laugh out loud. And made me want yo start most of my sentences with "because". Excellent.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Law

    Melancholy. Motherhood. Loneliness. Violence. A story set in fictional Mapeli Town, Kenya, where it's established by the great grandmother of the protagonist - a 13-year old girl, named Ayosa Ataraxis Brown, who had a special gift that being able to remember people’s life including the ones happened before she was born. She could see her mum and grandma’s life as a wriggly thing before the Time Before. Ayosa had a difficult relationship with her mother, Nabumbo Promose Brown. Since Ayosa was a li Melancholy. Motherhood. Loneliness. Violence. A story set in fictional Mapeli Town, Kenya, where it's established by the great grandmother of the protagonist - a 13-year old girl, named Ayosa Ataraxis Brown, who had a special gift that being able to remember people’s life including the ones happened before she was born. She could see her mum and grandma’s life as a wriggly thing before the Time Before. Ayosa had a difficult relationship with her mother, Nabumbo Promose Brown. Since Ayosa was a little kid, she had been left alone at home raising herself by her mother. The girl gradually became hopeless in her mother that would eventually return and give her the long due love and caring. She then longingly seeked for an alternative and idealised mother. Through Ayosa's wanders around the town, she encountered wraiths, who disguised themselves to trick living people and kidnapping them in order to fill their emptiness. Ayosa’s special gift made her a target by the wraiths. We followed the encounters and escapes from the wraiths’ attempts with the help of the people her met during her adventure. I enjoyed the poems that read by Ms. Temperance on the radio, particularly the one depicting what Ayosa felt being abandoned by her mother. They were very beautiful and poetic. The constant shift between the present and the memories from different characters' perspectives might posed a challenge for some readers. Interesting to read how characters dealt with grief - it led Ayosa lived through the generational trauma, full of violence, regret & resentment. The author on the other hand approched death in a witty way/dark humour through the daily death news radio broadcast. Ayosa drafted her mother's death news once she thought her mother died. She grieved her idealised mother figure rather than her actual mother. This book is quite a slowburner because I spent a long time trying to figure out what’s going on. The adventures of Ayosa didn’t really lead to anywhere in terms of the plot until the last third of the book, things picked up quickly. Here's a quote about loneliness that I liked: "If you wine and dine your lonesomeness, maybe it won't sneak up on you in the middle of the night and slit your throat."

  26. 5 out of 5

    Laurie

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway. Overall I enjoyed the book. At first I hated it. I had trouble getting into the story and the author’s use of language was quite different than what I’m used to. Once I figured out her style and read a few chapters it started coming together. In a few ways it even ended up reminding me just slightly of Where the Crawdads Sing. The more I read the more I liked it. Set in a small African village. A girl, Ayosa Ataraxis Brown, lives with her mom, Nabumbo Promi I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway. Overall I enjoyed the book. At first I hated it. I had trouble getting into the story and the author’s use of language was quite different than what I’m used to. Once I figured out her style and read a few chapters it started coming together. In a few ways it even ended up reminding me just slightly of Where the Crawdads Sing. The more I read the more I liked it. Set in a small African village. A girl, Ayosa Ataraxis Brown, lives with her mom, Nabumbo Promise Brown on the outskirts of town in a big old house that was originally built by Ayosa’s great grandmother. The history for the family is woven into the story as visions that Ayosa sees from when she was just a wriggling thing, before she was born, but come back to her throughout the book. Nabumbo leaves Ayosa alone for days, weeks, months at a time. She physically leaves but at times she also mentally leaves and falls into a red city world in her mind. The history of this is also woven into the story. Luckily an apothecary, Jentrix, and her granddaughter Temerity live on the property and help both Ayosa and Nabumbo as needed. As Ayosa becomes more inquisitive of things outside of their property, she eventually goes into town and meets Sindano, a cafe owner who never has any customers. She learns about wraiths that want to steal your soul and other things from her. She also finally talks to the throwaway girl who goes around peeking in people’s windows but never talks. Ayosa and this girl, Mbiu, become fast friends and set off on adventures together. There is lots of magic and whimsy and poetry and beautiful descriptions throughout the book. There is also a lot of trauma, heartbreak, loneliness, and disappointment. Ayosa is trying to figure out who she is and what she can control. Her relationship with her mom is tumultuous and she finds herself eventually wanting to just breakaway rather than try to continuously want things to get better.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Hilbermg

    From Leone Ross, NYT, 4/12/22 In “Things They Lost,” Oduor suggests that the body is sickened by secrets; everything must come up and out. There is no lazy epiphany here. Oduor’s world-building feels in part like a metaphor for colonialism and its effects. Mabel Brown is a cancer on this stolen land, shooting children and animals with equal relish. Her daughter Lola Freedom epitomizes performative white saviordom. Nabumbo gets rich from the art she makes out of Black bodies. The family has harmed From Leone Ross, NYT, 4/12/22 In “Things They Lost,” Oduor suggests that the body is sickened by secrets; everything must come up and out. There is no lazy epiphany here. Oduor’s world-building feels in part like a metaphor for colonialism and its effects. Mabel Brown is a cancer on this stolen land, shooting children and animals with equal relish. Her daughter Lola Freedom epitomizes performative white saviordom. Nabumbo gets rich from the art she makes out of Black bodies. The family has harmed the population, and decades later, when Ayosa and Nabumbo need the very Christian community their cruel ancestor shaped, that collective cannot let itself forgive. Only the outliers — those odd women who rise up in every human community to defy expectation and give the best of what little they have — provide succor to what is left of the tattered Brown family. Despite its heavy themes, this is not a sad book — it’s full of young-girl laughter, decadent meal-taking, beloved animals and ridiculous near-drownings. Oduor has written the kind of novel where a woman casually props up her own collapsing larynx with a speculum. It’s an African “Alice in Wonderland.” You will never go down another rabbit hole like this, with its crazy-birds in the yard screeching “Jolly anna ha-ha-ha.” As the novel unfurls, Oduor asks again and again: What is it to be wanted and needed, what is it to be important to another human? Ultimately, Oduor suggests that there is always an opportunity for change; one does not have to repeat the trauma. Life, if you fight for it, becomes gloriously available.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    One criterion by which I try to evaluate a book is how well it succeeds on its own terms. Well . . . in the case of "Things They Lost," I've got no idea what those terms might be, so I can only opine about the experience of reading it, which I found difficult but rewarding. Nope, that's not especially satisfying. Let me see if I can figure out what Ms. Oduor is trying to achieve with "Things They Lost." Is she attempting to create a fable, with her characters Nabumbo and Ayosa as stand-ins for the One criterion by which I try to evaluate a book is how well it succeeds on its own terms. Well . . . in the case of "Things They Lost," I've got no idea what those terms might be, so I can only opine about the experience of reading it, which I found difficult but rewarding. Nope, that's not especially satisfying. Let me see if I can figure out what Ms. Oduor is trying to achieve with "Things They Lost." Is she attempting to create a fable, with her characters Nabumbo and Ayosa as stand-ins for the Universal Mother and the Restless Spirit? Um, maybe, but I don't know why a fable would need references to the Lockerbie bombing and Miles Davis records. Is she writing a modern epic poem? I dunno, maybe, there are lovely images, choruses that echo throughout the book ("the villagers oiled their elbows"), recurring motifs, and an unseen character who speaks in blank verse, but . . . I'm not picking up any meter, not that I'm extraordinarily sensitive to such things. Is she writing an African work of magic realism? Hmm, "Things They Lost" is at least in the same solar system, if not the same planet. There are wraiths, there are talking animals, there are human rights abuses so vile they can only be depicted through a lens of abstraction. But most magic realism I've read are political, at some level. Only picking up the vaguest hint of that here. Maybe it's just a singular reading experience that defies genre. There you go. That's a cop-out, but it's the best I can do.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Book Wormy

    #ReadAroundTheWorld #Kenya Wow this book is amazing from the very beginning I found myself in a magical world of wriggling things, of complex relationships between mothers and daughters and between siblings a world where superstitions are rife and where nothing is what it seems on the surface. I loved the characters each one colourful and unique in her own way and yes I do mean her as the male characters in this are virtually non existent, the only one who regularly appears being the silent milkm #ReadAroundTheWorld #Kenya Wow this book is amazing from the very beginning I found myself in a magical world of wriggling things, of complex relationships between mothers and daughters and between siblings a world where superstitions are rife and where nothing is what it seems on the surface. I loved the characters each one colourful and unique in her own way and yes I do mean her as the male characters in this are virtually non existent, the only one who regularly appears being the silent milkman. While this is a female centric book it does not take the point of view that all women are good indeed some of the women are very bad especially when it comes to the traditional roles assigned to them by society. I listened to the audio of this read by Christel Mutombo and her voice really added to the experience this is a lyrical book and the reading really matched this I loved the repeating phrase "because why?" and my new favourite exclamation "F**k toad". One aspect I would like to know more about is the wraiths what happened to them in the past and will they achieve what they want for the future. I can honestly see this book making the Booker Longlist and if it does here are my ratings if it doesn't I will be expecting some amazing books on that list.... Writing quality: 4/5 Originality: 5/5 Character development: 3/4 Plot development: 4/4 Overall enjoyment: 2/2 Total: 18/20

  30. 5 out of 5

    Stefanie

    The mud squished between her toes as the insects buzzed around her, feeding off the dampened ground. She trudged forward, the birdsong leading her. The sun baked her shoulders and made her skin crisp. She slathered mud on her arms to try and keep cool. Lizards scurried, rabbits bounced, foxes dashed, and stray cats scampered. She was one of them now… no momma in sight. But this was okay, because this is where she felt at home. Things They Lost is a beautifully written debut novel that shares the The mud squished between her toes as the insects buzzed around her, feeding off the dampened ground. She trudged forward, the birdsong leading her. The sun baked her shoulders and made her skin crisp. She slathered mud on her arms to try and keep cool. Lizards scurried, rabbits bounced, foxes dashed, and stray cats scampered. She was one of them now… no momma in sight. But this was okay, because this is where she felt at home. Things They Lost is a beautifully written debut novel that shares the story of Ayosa, a wondering spirit of a girl who grapples with longing and loneliness when her mother constantly abandons her. This book was so lyrical and wonderful and I can not believe this is Okwiri’s debut novel. Such soul-searching prose and beautiful storytelling is woven into the pages of this book. Exploring the depth of friendship, the processing of memories, and finding true self worth. It had a few slow-moving sections, but overall it was such a fascinating book. Also, there are no quotation marks, which would usually bother me, but honestly in this book it just added to the beauty. If you’re a fan of lyrical writing and magical realism, then you don’t want to miss this story! TW: Death of a Loved One, Death of a Child, Murder, Abandonment, Physical/Emotional Abuse, Suicide. *I received a gifted copy of this book from the publisher for my honest review.

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