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Things They Lost

‘Magical, beguiling… Things They Lost carries echoes of Toni Morrison’s Beloved' Guardian

Okwiri Oduor


‘An extraordinary tale about love, longing, and the bond between mothers and daughters.’ Vogue

A Vulture ‘Book We Can’t Wait to Read in 2022’

From the 2014 Caine Prize winner comes an astonishing new novel, riven through with mystery and magic, about a daughter’s quest to save her mother

The Manor Mabel Brown looms high over Mapeli Town, its rickety gate flanked by stone angels with severed heads, its yard full of tangled thorns and wildflowers. Inside these ramshackle walls lives Ayosa, twelve years old and the loneliest girl in the world.

With her mother prone to frequent disappearances, Ayosa’s only companions are the ghosts and spirits who wander through her Kenyan village. She craves escape, but more than that she longs for the love of her fearsome mother, Nabumbo Promise. 

When a new friend arrives in the shape of Mbiu, Ayosa is forced to choose between protecting her mama and seizing a life of her own.

Okwiri Oduor’s stunningly original debut novel sings with Kenyan folklore and myth as it traces the fragile, intoxicating bond between a mother and daughter like no other. 

  • Publication date: February 2, 2023
  • ISBN: 9780861544912
  • RRP: £9.99
  • Pages: 368
  • Publication date: April 14, 2022
  • ISBN: 9780861543878
  • RRP: £16.99
  • Pages: 368
  • Publication date: April 14, 2022
  • ISBN: 9780861543885
  • RRP: £8.99
  • Pages: 368


'The supernatural runs amok, for good and ill, in this boisterous and bittersweet saga tracking four generations of women from a cursed family in a fictional East African town... Oduor's freewheeling invention [is] an undeniable strength.' 

Daily Mail

'Some novels demand you read every word with great care, making the experience one of cumulative intensity. Things They Lost, the astonishing debut from the Kenyan writer Okwiri Oduor, is such a novel. Oduor has produced page after page of gorgeous, elegiac prose. Dense and rich as a black Christmas cake and alternately whimsical, sweet and dark, Things They Lost is a complex work, brimming with uncompromisingly African magical realism, about the ambiguity of toxic mother-daughter relationships and the urgently restorative nature of friendship.'

New York Times

'Things They Lost, written by Caine Prize-winning Kenyan author Oduor, defies categorisation... The writing is mesmeric, at times as warm and rhythmic as a lullaby, and filled with gentle, keen observations of the natural world. A book with a big heart that feels like a hug.'

New Internationalist

'An original and dazzling debut novel … A haunting, magical union of Kenyan folklore and the sometimes fragile union between mother and daughter.’

New African

'[A] story that injects the fantastic into the mystery of Kenya's disappearing girls... [Things They Lost] will appeal to any reader who has survived or wants to understand girlhood as a time of complexity, laced with unparalleled creativity and expansion.'


'A soaring debut. Things They Lost is an exhilarating read. I could not put it down.'

Peace Adzo Medie, author of His Only Wife

'From the start, Oduor — a winner of the Caine Prize for African Writing, among other honors — broadcasts her tremendous talents ... Come for the beguiling narrative, and stay for the rich, evocative language.'

Vulture, Most Anticipated of 2022

'Studded with mystery and magic… a novel about love at its most intoxicating.’

Natasha Onwuemezi, Bookseller

'What a singular and palpable world, teeming with life and wonder. In exuberant prose, at once witty and poetic, Okwiri Oduor threads a wondrous tale of girlhood, longing, and community with the ghosts that both love and hurt us. I read this book with gratefulness and awe! We will be reading Ms. Oduor for years to come.'

Novuyo Rosa Tshuma, author of House of Stone

'In this debut set in late 1980s Kenya, spirits benevolent and malicious rattle in attics and lead people's lives astray. Twelve-year-old Ayosa remembers things from long before her birth when she was just "a wriggling thing". Abandoned by her flighty mother for months at a time, she lives on handouts from neighbours and interprets violent intrusions from the natural world as desire... Rich with myth and the natural landscape of Kenya, this novel is entertaining and innovative.'

The Irish Times

'So profound, its humour shining so bright... A stunning debut!'

Onyeka Nwelue, author of The Strangers of Braamfontein

'Debut author Oduor renders this fantastical world so tangibly it almost leaps off the page – a feat aided by her stunning language... this novel is lively and original; it is a captivating journey from start to finish. A joy to read.'

Kirkus (starred review)

Okwiri Oduor

Okwiri Oduor was born in Nairobi, Kenya. At the age of 25, she won the Caine Prize for African Writing 2014 for her story ‘My Father’s Head’. Later that year, she was named on the Hay Festival’s Africa39 list of 39 African writers under 40 who would define trends in African literature. She has been a MacDowell Colony fellow, and she received her MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She has a story forthcoming in Granta, and Things They Lost is her debut novel. She lives in Germany.

Author page

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