Cassandra Williams is twelve, and her little brother Wayne is seven. One day, when they're alone together, an accident happens and Wayne is lost forever. Or so it seems. Though his body is never recovered, their mother, unable to give up hope, launches an organization dedicated to missing children. From the author of The Old Drift.
... batters against the fixities of language like a moth at a windowpane ... Serpell writes in rhizomes—extended subterranean stems that send up shoots at unpredictable intervals ... The novel’s engine is epistemic as well as emotional, Serpell being one of those novelists who have metabolized the quirks and the canniness of literary theory ... though the novel’s story lines turn and twist, the precision of Serpell’s language remains under exquisite control ... a novel that embraces fretting and fondling alike ... Serpell reminds us on every page that nothing is less reliable than language—that every story is necessarily a betrayal...The result is a novel that reclaims and refashions the genre of the elegy, charging it with as much eros as pathos. Furrows are the tracks we make and the tracks we cover up, and the shifting ground of Serpell’s novel denies every certainty save that the furrows are where we all live.
Serpell’s premise is a magnificent snare; you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better opening chapter this year ... far more intimate, a novel of skin pressed to skin ... a modern parable, or sociopolitical trauma made flesh. Told once, the story of Wayne’s accident is a tragedy; but told again and again and again it becomes a kind of elegy, a lament for broken Black bodies, and recurrent horrors ... In the second half of The Furrows (which is less riveting than the first, but tantalisingly cryptic), Wayne’s absence becomes a kind of shapeshifting presence ... shows how lucrative white guilt and trauma can be. And how easily it can slide into something darker ... Serpell is a terrific destabiliser, even at the level of the sentence ... There are no tidy moral lessons at the end of her dissonant and time-contorting fable – no bones to bury, no truth to pin, no mysteries solved – only the inescapable rhythms of loss.
Dynamic ... Grief...can seem unreasonable, and The Furrows captures its brain-scrambling, time-altering power ... Much of the book feels painfully, tragically accurate ... Its ambiguities and enigmas add up to not more eddying confusions but to a stark reminder that the only reasonable response to grief is 'life life life.'