Hiram has a gift. He can remember everything, everything he has ever seen and everything that has ever happened to him. The only thing he can’t remember is his mother. When she is sold into slavery, he is separated from her at just five years old. This experience bestows upon him a power that he is yet to understand the full greatness of. It’s not until he experiences a brush with death which urges him to seek freedom that he will learn the extent of his abilities.
Sofia’s mother, Rose, has spent most of her life in what she describes as excruciating pain, yet simultaneous numbness. Unable to get to the bottom of her illness, Sofia and Rose spend thousands of pounds, remortgaging their home in the process, to travel to the enigmatic Dr. Gomez in arid Spain in the hope that he may offer an explanation and some relief for Rose’s condition. Up until this point, Sofia had been sleeping on a camp bed in the storeroom of the coffee shop she worked in, after dropping out of her PhD program. A keen anthropologist, Sofia quietly studies those whom she meets in this little Spanish town, whilst battling with her own identity issues. She quickly becomes involved with an intriguing German seamstress, but struggles to determine whether her emotions are that of love or obsession.
Ella is drifting through her 20s, with the distinct feeling that she’s not where she should be. She watches as her girlfriend, Alix, succeed in her art and make plans to take her work abroad, while Ella herself fails to produce more than one painting a year, despite her similar artist aspirations. Instead, she finds herself bouncing from one care-giving job to another, privy to the most private moments of people in need. She takes on the task of caring for Jill, a client slightly younger than her usual charges who is left mentally diminished following a tragic accident. Ella is struck by the tenderness with which Jill’s husband, Bryn, cares for her, and the quiet friendship that develops between the two of them as Ella returns each day to help where she can. As she continues to observe their marriage each day, Ella finds herself questioning her own relationships with those around her.
Twin brothers Christophe and Joshua are about to graduate high school. Their feelings are mixed; joyful for the freedom they will finally have but apprehensive about how they will manage to make money to enjoy that freedom. Growing up in a poverty-ridden black community in rural Mississippi, the boys have few promising prospects. Gifted a car by their absent mother, they begin driving around the towns surrounding their home of Bois Sauvage, hunting for work. When Joshua gets a job working the docks on the Gulf Coast, Christophe becomes jealous and increasingly desperate to help contribute something to his ageing grandmother, who continues to care for the twins despite her blindness. He turns to his cousin Dunny and to drug-dealing, which widens the growing gulf between himself and his twin, who fears Christophe is veering down a path dangerously similar to that of their addict father, Sandman. Christophe’s choices set both the twins on course to a violent encounter with their father that could forever alter their lives.
Gretel hasn’t seen her mother in sixteen years. Growing up on a boat on the Oxfordshire canals, Gretel and her mother created a world of their own, with words of their own, and a creature they called the Bonak that haunts the dark currents of the river. Now Gretel is grown, a lexicographer who tries to make sense of the words of the real world whilst not being able to make sense of her own past. Too many questions are left unanswered, and she hunts hospitals and morgues searching for her mother and for answers that only her mother can give her. When the two are reunited, Gretel begins to trawl through fragmented memories and asks, what happened to Marcus? What happened to the boy that lived with us that winter?
Living alongside the violence of Pablo Escobar’s Colombia are two young girls whose lives collide in ways that neither of them will ever forget. Seven-year-old Chula Santiago lives in a gated community in Bogotá with her sister and parents, though her father’s work often takes him out of the city. She grows up in a ‘kingdom of women’, but her kingdom is haunted by stories of the car bombs and kidnappings that go on outside the walls of her community. Petrona is a teenage girl from an invasión, an impoverished area in the hills of the city, who comes to work as a maid for the Santiagos. Chula is fascinated by Petrona’s silence and as the two grow closer, Chula herself adopts this silence, keeping Petrona’s secrets as though her life depends on it. Petrona desperately tries to steer her younger siblings away from trouble, but she soon falls for a young man who sees her wealthy employers as the perfect target.
A short story that has become a staple of feminist literature, The Yellow Wallpaper consists of journal entries by a young woman who slowly descends into madness. The narrator is taken to a colonial mansion by her physician husband in an attempt to cure her ‘nervous depression’ through rest and relaxation. Sternly advised not to write or take up any pastime, the narrator takes to examining the garish yellow wallpaper in the room she’s staying in, soon becoming convinced that there is a woman trapped behind the florid patterns.
Ijeoma is coming of age during the Nigerian Civil War, a conflict that devastates her home and her family. Sent away by her mother for her own safety, Ijeoma finds herself embarking on a passionate love affair with another girl. She quickly learns the consequences of expressing this part of her identity and struggles to navigate the violent prejudices of her people.
Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit is a coming-of-age story that follows a young Northern girl named Jeanette. Adopted and raised in a religious family, Jeanette believes she is destined to become a missionary. As Jeanette reaches her teenage years, she finds herself falling in love with another girl, and her strict Pentecostal church responds with vehemence.
When Harmony drops out of university, she decides to return to her childhood home: a North London commune that’s now a decrepit block of flats. She hopes by moving back she’ll discover the source of her unsettling nightmares. The house has changed a lot, but at the same time so much is the same. It’s still a hotbed of vices, which fuels Harmony’s search for answers, answers that may change everything she thought she knew about her parents and herself.