The Old Drift

By Namwali Serpell,

Book cover of The Old Drift

Book description

“A dazzling debut, establishing Namwali Serpell as a writer on the world stage.”—Salman Rushdie, The New York Times Book Review
 
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY Dwight Garner, The New York Times • The New York Times Book Review • Time • NPR • The Atlantic…

Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. (learn more)

Why read it?

3 authors picked The Old Drift as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

This astonishing mashup of fact and fiction tracks three generations from three different lineages starting around 1900, describes their convergence over the century, and carries on into present-day Zambia, beyond the book’s publication date. This gives it the opportunity to morph into “science fiction” towards the end. The prose is often superb and the characters are vividly described. Obscure but authentic historic and technical details, e.g., the Afronaut story (who knew?) and some clinicopathologic aspects of malaria, are impressive examples of the research the author put into the book. The McCall’s pattern numbers she referenced for a fictional seamstress were…

This mountainous whirlwind of a book is many things and does many things. A dazzling compendium of styles and genres, it’s probably the most ambitious debut I’ve ever read. It charts three family lines across a century as their respective trajectories meet and separate in a kaleidoscope of meaning, fleeting coincidence, and pure ecstasy. It made me think of how we never get to choose our ancestors and how we are stuck, for better or worse, with who they were and with who we are as a result.

From Umar's list on the meaning of family.

To describe The Old Drift as epic and sprawling is an understatement.  As critics have noted, it is astounding to think that this is a first novel. The Zambian-born Serpell has used her phenomenal powers of observation and imagination to create a sweeping saga of multiple families over several generations of Zambia’s history, and even verges into science-fiction towards the end. Ordinarily I prefer novels with, say, three or four main characters. This one must have thirty, but the recurring connections between them holds things together. Above all, the dead-on details of daily life, especially in the fascinating capital city…

Want books like The Old Drift?

Our community of 6,000+ authors has personally recommended 10 books like The Old Drift.

Browse books like The Old Drift

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in family, friendships, and sisters?

6,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about family, friendships, and sisters.

Family Explore 425 books about family
Friendships Explore 369 books about friendships
Sisters Explore 129 books about sisters