The pure energy of the words strikes first, the thrumming, soaring, frenetic pace of Nana Nkweti’s expression ... None of these stories end with a miraculous healing. Even where revelations occur, they never erase scars. Nkweti uses genre tropes to subvert our expectations. She employs the zombie story, the fairy tale, and the confessional in order to invert conventions ... The levity of Nkweti’s writing can make even passing descriptions a delight ... Occasionally the writing veers into the overwrought ... But the sheer speed of Nkweti’s expression allows for correction in midair, and her keen descriptive eye provides more pleasures than missteps ... Her inventiveness dazzles.
I finished this story collection and wondered, Is there anything Nana Nkweti can’t do? In her raucous and thoroughly impressive debut, Walking on Cowrie Shells, Nkweti writes across multiple genres including science fiction, young adult literature, literary fiction and suspense, showcasing a host of voices — immigrant and first-generation, elder and Gen Z, human and supernatural, faithful and godless — hailing from the United States and Africa ... Nkweti’s utterly original stories range from laugh-out-loud funny to heartbreaking, and are often both ... Nkweti proffers no easy solutions to the dilemmas her richly layered characters face, and she challenges our presumptions about who the villains and victims are ... This sensitivity, nuance and keen attention to history shine through on every page of the collection ... At turns tender and bold, Nkweti’s tales upend racist stereotypes. But her writing flows in such a beautiful way, and her characters’ complexities are so central, that this myth-busting feels like a byproduct and not a mission. Nkweti’s mission seems to be to have a hell of a lot of fun writing exquisite stories about people and places that matter to her. And lucky us, we get to read them. These are stories to get lost in again and again.
... walks an impressive tightrope between laugh-out-loud comedy and breathtaking profundity ... Nkweti does not translate the French or Cameroonian phrases peppered throughout the collection, adding to the reading adventure ... Nkweti executes this back and forth between cultures with exquisite skill, remaining just far enough outside each culture to make keen observations, delivering finely observed detail with a wicked sense of humor ... A linguistic pole vaulter, Nkweti bends language like a master. Readers will enjoy her frequent, unique plays on words ... Nkweti hovers at the edge of pop culture, familiar with its highs and lows, as well as its pervasive impact on contemporary life ... It Just Kills You Inside was the one story that I felt struggled to stay within its boundaries. It was well constructed, and like all Nkweti's stories, fiendishly clever, but I couldn't help wondering if this story wanted to grow into a novel ... This is a minor complaint, however, in a collection that is piquant with witticisms and remarkable, innovative prose. Walking on Cowrie Shells is a terrific read, each story different and varied from the one before. Nkweti has proven herself a bright new star. I, for one, cannot wait to read what she writes next.