Walking on Cowrie Shells by Nana Nkweti

Book Review by Heather McDaid | 05 May 2022
  • Walking on Cowrie Shells
Book title: Walking on Cowrie Shells
Author: Nana Nkweti

Walking on Cowrie Shells takes readers on a whistlestop tour of genres in a dynamic package. Whether the dualling perspectives of an adoptive mother and the family’s adopted daughter, a subsequent leveraging of position to fast-track fortunes, or a PR’s spin on a zombie apocalypse subverting the arc; with a quick stop at a comic on the way for good measure, the collection deftly travels far within its few tales. This feels like a taster of an author who could craft novel after novel, each pivoting to a new realm.

Story forms blend and bend around one another effortlessly – mystery, horror, myth, realism, even the nod to graphic novels – as Nkweti focuses on those whose lives span Cameroonian and American cultures. As we traverse cultures and countries, there’s so much to revel in. Within this blend, readers feel in good hands – Nkweti is a master of language, twisting and subverting genres, building up lush, vivid prose, and comfortably swerving across them all with ease. As with any journey with so many varied stops, some shine brighter than others, dig deeper, but that’s the nature of such a range.

There is no one note: not the genre, the journey, the writing, the response – whether a laugh, or heartrending moment. The complexity, ambition, variety – it’s a debut collection that sings from the page, story after story.

The Indigo Press, 5 May, £10.99