This novel shows us an unseen Washington filled with otherworldly landscapes, flawed super-humans, and reluctant ghosts, and brings together a community intent on saving one young boy in order to reclaim itself.
Every once in a while, a novel is so compelling that it changes your sense of a place. Morowa Yejidé’s Creatures of Passage is that book ... Yejidé’s characters are so finely drawn, her language so lush, the city’s landmarks so cleverly repurposed within this magical setting, that the fictional place feels as real as the place itself ... Yejidé’s writing captures both real news and spiritual truths with the deftness and capacious imagination of her writing foremothers: Zora Neale Hurston, Toni Morrison and N.K. Jemisin ... threaded with hope and love and connection ... that rare novel that dispenses ancestral wisdom and literary virtuosity in equal measure.
The novel’s movement isn’t forward so much as in spirals and, in parts, the tale becomes unmoored as the reader is plunged into a profusion of bad-luck back stories. But when the book’s vertebrae returns, so does narrative propulsion. The novel’s prose-mechanics—cab rides transformed into recountings of characters’ personal histories—make sense given Nephthys’s occupation. But what is among the book’s greatest strengths, the care taken to deepen our understanding of these characters, ends up creating its greatest flaw: uneven pacing ... Creatures of Passage resists comparison. It’s reminiscent of Beloved as well as the Odyssey, but perhaps its most apt progenitor is the genre of epic poems performed by the djelis of West Africa ... these otherwise clashing elements become, in this cast, a cohesive whole, telling us that this, too, is America.
The novel’s setting of 1977 Anacostia, in the southeast quadrant of Washington, D.C., is magical and liquid, and so is author Morowa Yejidé’s storytelling style. Sequences flow between past, present and future, between concrete and fantastical, in a stream of vignettes ... Subtle clues hint at how the plot fuses together, emerging amid enjoyable sketches of characters ... So mesmerizing are Yejidé’s unhurried, lyrical chapters that it’s easy to forget the real conflicts, such as financial crises, racial tensions and substance abuse, looming in the background. This contemporary fairy tale’s grandeur and psychedelic wonderment undergird a serious warning, urging readers to make sense of the story’s message of family, justice, trauma and healing and to find a way toward a saner future.