The Days of Afrekete: A Novel (Hardcover)
“I didn't feel like I was reading this novel—I felt like I was living it.” —Ann Patchett, author of The Dutch House
From award-winning author Asali Solomon, The Days of Afrekete is a tender, surprising novel of two women at midlife who rediscover themselves—and perhaps each other, inspired by Mrs. Dalloway, Sula, and Audre Lorde's Zami
Liselle Belmont is having a dinner party.
It seems a strange occasion—her husband, Winn, has lost his bid for the state legislature—but what better way to thank key supporters than a feast? Liselle was never sure about her husband becoming a politician, never sure about the limelight, never sure about the life of fundraising and stump speeches. Then an FBI agent calls to warn her that Winn might be facing corruption charges. An avalanche of questions tumbles around her: Is it possible he’s guilty? Who are they to each other; who have they become? How much of herself has she lost—and was it worth it? And just this minute, how will she make it through this dinner party?
Across town, Selena Octave is making her way through the same day, the same way she always does—one foot in front of the other, keeping quiet and focused, trying not to see the terrors all around her. Homelessness, starving children, the very living horrors of history that made America possible: these and other thoughts have made it difficult for her to live an easy life. The only time she was ever really happy was with Liselle, back in college. But they’ve lost touch, so much so that when they ran into each other at a drugstore just after Obama was elected president, they barely spoke. But as the day wears on, memories of Liselle begin to shift Selena’s path.
Inspired by Mrs. Dalloway and Sula, as well as Audre Lorde’s Zami, Asali Solomon’s The Days of Afrekete is a deft, expertly layered, naturally funny, and deeply human examination of two women coming back to themselves at midlife. It is a watchful celebration of our choices and where they take us, the people who change us, and how we can reimagine ourselves even when our lives seem set.
About the Author
Asali Solomon’s first novel, Disgruntled, was named a best book of the year by the San Francisco Chronicle and The Denver Post. Her debut story collection, Get Down, earned her a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award and the National Book Foundation’s “5 Under 35” honor, and was a finalist for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award. Her work has appeared in O, The Oprah Magazine, Vibe, Essence, The Paris Review Daily, McSweeney’s, and several anthologies, and on NPR. Solomon teaches fiction writing and literature of the African diaspora at Haverford College. She was born and raised in Philadelphia, where she lives with her husband and two sons.
A Best Book of October: TIME, The Washington Post, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Ms.
A Most Anticipated Book of 2021: The Millions, Lit Hub
A Most Anticipated Book of the Fall: Vulture, The Boston Globe
—Bethanne Patrick, The Washington Post
—Annabel Gutterman, TIME
“A taut study of doubleness and marital ruin that kept me up all night. Solomon is precise and tender, even as she deals with lurid, human sins and the terror of critical mass—that it is inevitable, and that despite our need to travel backward, it cannot be undone.”
—Raven Leilani, The Guardian
“Tense, affecting, and slyly funny.”
—Patrick Rapa, The Philadelphia Inquirer
“Fresh and funny, offering reflections on friendships, choices and how the past truly shapes the future.”
—Carla Strand, Ms.
“The Days of Afrekete is so elegant and fresh, so sophisticated and modern, I didn't feel like I was reading this novel—I felt like I was living it. I loved every minute.”
—Ann Patchett, author of The Dutch House
“With both a precise focus on a single day and the range to cover decades, The Days of Afrekete beautifully captures what it feels like to find yourself going through the motions of a life that used to pulse with color, wondering what you traded for survival or success. Asali Solomon illuminates what it means to grow away from what felt like the truest version of yourself, what the way back might look like, what Black women in particular are asked to give up, and what it might mean to refuse. Solomon is a treasure: wise, hilarious, and full of poignant insight.”
—Danielle Evans, author of The Office of Historical Corrections
“The Days of Afrekete is a subtle, unique novel about the power of feeling between young women, and how even seemingly ephemeral relationships can affect a life across decades of personal and social change. It is a haunting and redemptive story.”
—Mary Gaitskill, author of This is Pleasure
“The Days of Afrekete is one of the most enjoyable novels I’ve read in a long time. Asali Solomon is a wickedly astute observer of the human condition, alert to all our weaknesses and absurdities, as well as our occasional moments of transcendence. The clarity of her vision is sometimes unsettling, but it’s always revelatory.”
—Tom Perrotta, author of Mrs. Fletcher
“Solomon echoes the deep feminine bonds at the center of novels like Nella Larsen’s Passing and Toni Morrison’s Sula to reveal how the erotics of our past lives shape our futures even when we think the desire is long gone.”
—Omari Weekes, Vulture
“[Asali Solomon is] in a lineage of modernist party hosts like Woolf and Proust. What starts out a smoothly entertaining social satire turns out to expect a little work from you, dear reader.”
—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“Centered on Liselle Belmont, in a marriage of convenience that begins to unravel amid political scandal, this tender novel explores Liselle’s rediscovery of herself and her former college lover.”
—Joshunda Sanders, The Boston Globe
“Illuminating . . . Solomon brings wit and incisive commentary to this pristine take on two characters’ fascinating and painful lives.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Solomon charts the social and cultural geography of her native Philadelphia with clear-eyed affection, and gives each woman character a full-throated voice. Unforgettable.”
—Lesley Williams, Booklist, starred review
“Astonishing . . . Such a beautiful, strange, funny, moving book . . . It defies description.”
—Elizabeth McCracken, author of The Souvenir Museum (on Twitter)
“Outstanding . . . Incredibly intimate and yet expansive.”
—Porochista Khakpour, Bookforum
“This funny and engaging book kept me up well into the midnight hour. The characters are a riot—the kind I’d want to be at a barbecue with and whose lives are so palpable and interesting, they would definitely be my favorite aunts! This is no midlife crisis—it’s life! Asali Solomon paints beautiful, imperfect, and unforgettable characters everyone will be able to relate to in so many ways.”
—Nicole Dennis-Benn, author of Patsy
“Asali Solomon—who should be a household name—may become one with The Days of Afrekete, a masterwork that shines a spotlight on what is troubling, uncomfortable, and hilariously funny about our present moment in time. There are few writers working today who are as precise with language, as perceptive, and—only when she wants to be—as moving as Solomon. This concise novel, which seems at first like a blistering send-up of an upper-middle-class dinner party, expands into strangeness and beauty and a meditation on the meaning of life. I won't forget it.”
—Liz Moore, author of Long Bright River
“This is a masterful novel, a controlled and aching exploration of how choices made long ago echo throughout our lives and how the bonds of true affection strain but do not break. I have always loved Asali Solomon’s work, but The Days of Afrekete may well be her sharpest, most trenchant, most brilliant book yet.”
—Cristina Henríquez, author of The Book of Unknown Americans
“This profoundly intelligent and moving novel explores and dramatizes the sometimes mysterious sources and adult consequences of choices made in youth. These characters are damaged but talented, seemingly well-positioned to succeed but unsure of what they want for themselves, or of where they or their loyalties really belong. Their intimate ensemble of voices engages and converses with perfect pitch across races, sexualities, and social classes, seeking love and happiness and losing these. I know that some of these complex, haunting characters, especially Liselle and Selena, now feel permanently alive in me. Asali Solomon is extraordinarily gifted, and I feel so grateful to have read this novel.”
—Francisco Goldman, author of Monkey Boy