Crooked Seeds: A Novel (Hardcover)

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Crooked Seeds: A Novel By Karen Jennings Cover Image

Crooked Seeds: A Novel (Hardcover)

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A woman in post-apartheid South Africa confronts her family’s troubling past in this taut and daring novel about national trauma and collective guilt—from the Booker Prize–longlisted author of An Island.

“Extraordinary . . . unputdownable.”—Roddy Doyle


Cape Town, 2028. The land cracks from a years-long drought, the nearby mountains threaten to burn, and the queue for the water trucks grows ever longer.

In her crumbling corner of a public housing complex, Deidre van Deventer receives a call from the South African police. Her family home, recently reclaimed by the government, has become the scene of a criminal investigation. The remains of several bodies have just been unearthed from her land, after decades underground. Detectives pepper Deidre with questions: Was your brother a member of a pro-apartheid group in the 1990s? Is it true that he was building bombs as part of a terrorist plot?

Deidre doesn’t know the answers to the detectives’ questions. All she knows is that she was denied—repeatedly—the life she felt she deserved. Overshadowed by her brother, then left behind by her daughter after she emigrated, Deidre must watch over her aging mother and make do with government help and the fading generosity of her neighbors while the landscape around her grows more and more combustible. As alarming evidence from the investigation continues to surface, and detectives pressure her to share what she knows of her family’s disturbing past, Deidre must finally face her own shattered memories so that something better might emerge for her and her country.

In exquisitely spare prose, Karen Jennings weaves a singularly powerful novel about post-apartheid South Africa. It is an unforgettable, propulsive story of fractured families, collective guilt, the ways we become trapped in prisons of our own making, and how we can begin to break free.
Karen Jennings is a South African writer whose novel An Island was longlisted for the Booker Prize. She lives in Cape Town.
Product Details ISBN: 9780593597125
ISBN-10: 0593597125
Publisher: Hogarth
Publication Date: April 16th, 2024
Pages: 240
Language: English
“Jennings has summoned a rotting wraith of South Africa’s discarded apartheid culture. . . . This is a novel that dares to push us beyond disgust, beyond pity, to a point where we’re forced to touch the swollen tumor of another person’s deepest humiliation. The real artistry of Crooked Seeds lies in Jennings’s ability to make this story feel so propulsive. In a sense, Jennings has created a South African version of Sam Shepard’s Buried Child. Could any person’s suffering expiate the sins of South Africa? These are questions this urgent novel forces upon us. Crooked Seeds leaves us reeling.”The Washington Post

“Karen Jennings's Crooked Seeds has a moral and psychological precision that sharpens its examination of apartheid’s legacy, and effects a bleak study, unsparing but compassionate, of a character broken by trauma.”—The Sydney Morning Herald

“[An] outstandingly good novel . . . Reminiscent of other South African writers: Gordimer, Galgut, Coetzee . . . [Jennings] has many qualities of her own, not least a very dark humour that surfaces with perfect timing. . . . This is not a ‘feel good’ book, but it did make me feel good—feel joy, in fact, at its precise pursuit of its vision, at its grown-up complexity and at the way Deidre is such a perfectly realised fictional creation.”—The Observer (UK)

“This is an extraordinary novel. It is shattering, almost unbearable, yet—so good, so clear—it is unputdownable.”—Roddy Doyle, Booker Prize–winning author of Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha

“Karen Jennings is a modern master of the castaway novel. Her characters are often exiled from the world—physically or psychologically, sometimes both. Crooked Seed’s Deidre and Trudy are unforgettable characters living on the margins of life. Together they make this an unsparing, yet profoundly beautiful novel.”—Chigozie Obioma, author of The Fishermen and An Orchestra of Minorities

“Deidre’s the kind of character who gets under your skin: furious, flawed, and utterly unique. Jennings writes about broken people with unflinching honesty and deep compassion. This is a quietly devastating novel.”—Jan Carson, author of The Raptures

“The past comes back to haunt a woman whose life is deteriorating in this powerful new novel from Booker Prize–longlisted author [Karen] Jennings. . . . With evocative prose and an apocalyptic setting, Jennings brings these complicated women to life while the world around them slowly crumbles. Readers will be captivated by this compelling novel about the corrosive power of family secrets.”—Booklist

“Bleak and provocative . . . leaves readers with much to ponder about South Africa’s painful history . . . There are no easy answers in Jennings’s knotty narrative.”—Publishers Weekly