With echoes of Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Yejidé’s novel explores a forgotten quadrant of Washington, DC, and the ghosts that haunt it.
Nephthys Kinwell is a taxi driver of sorts in Washington, DC, ferrying ill-fated passengers in a haunted car: a 1967 Plymouth Belvedere with a ghost in the trunk. Endless rides and alcohol help her manage her grief over the death of her twin brother, Osiris, who was murdered and dumped in the Anacostia River.
Unknown to Nephthys when the novel opens in 1977, her estranged great-nephew, ten-year-old Dash, is finding himself drawn to the banks of that very same river. It is there that Dash--reeling from having witnessed an act of molestation at his school, but still questioning what and who he saw--has charmed conversations with a mysterious figure he calls the "River Man," who somehow appears each time he goes there.
When Dash arrives unexpectedly at Nephthys's door one day bearing a cryptic note about his unusual conversations with the River Man, Nephthys must face both the family she abandoned and what frightens her most when she looks in the mirror.
Creatures of Passage beautifully threads together the stories of Nephthys, Dash, and others both living and dead. Morowa Yejidé's deeply captivating novel shows us an unseen Washington filled with otherworldly landscapes, flawed super-humans, and reluctant ghosts, and brings together a community intent on saving one young boy in order to reclaim themselves.
MOROWA YEJIDÉ is the author of the critically acclaimed novel Time of the Locust, which was a 2012 finalist for the PEN/Bellwether Prize, long-listed for the 2015 PEN/Bingham Prize, and a 2015 NAACP Image Award nominee. She lives in the DC area with her husband and three sons. Her most recent novel, Creatures of Passage, was shortlisted for the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence and a 2021 Notable Book selection by NPR and the Washington Post.