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3.74  ·  Rating Details ·  534 Ratings  ·  141 Reviews
From a breathtaking new voice, a novel about a splintered family in Kenya—a story of power and deceit, unrequited love, survival and sacrifice.

Odidi Oganda, running for his life, is gunned down in the streets of Nairobi. His grief-stricken sister, Ajany, just returned from Brazil, and their father bring his body back to their crumbling home in the Kenyan drylands, seeking
Hardcover, 369 pages
Published January 28th 2014 by Knopf (first published June 5th 2013)
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Lisa I think "the African experience" is too general, really. Kenya is a specific place in a vast continent of many widely varied cultures and histories,…moreI think "the African experience" is too general, really. Kenya is a specific place in a vast continent of many widely varied cultures and histories, and it feels like Westerners too often don't get that. This magnificent book definitely opened my eyes to the specific time and place, peoples and politics of Kenya in the 2000s and the legacy of post-colonial events in the 50s and 60s. That said, I feel like there must be many (too many) stories similar to this throughout post-colonial Africa (the world, even), and I do agree that the extraordinary power of this book is its ability to take us beyond the specific experience it portrays. It certainly—beautifully!—speaks to the universal human yearning for belonging, forgiveness, safety, family, redemption, personal freedom, self-determination — and love. I think that is the beauty and power of successful fiction, and quite possibly its (sadly unrealized!) potential for bridging humanity in a common understanding of what matters.(less)

Community Reviews

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Apr 13, 2014 Sue rated it it was amazing
This may be one of the most difficult books I've ever read and also, in the end, one of the most beautiful. It's human voice is so immense, so painful, so incredibly hard to listen to at times but so real.

I have never been to Kenya and am not likely to ever get to Africa at this point in my life (sadly) but I feel I have seen a glimpse of life that is not on tourists' maps but is of lives lived over the past 50 plus years as colonialism ended and Kenya has striven to become its own land. The co
Feb 26, 2016 Zanna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Dust opens with a shimmering vibrance that throws open the doors of perception, indeed unscrews them from their jambs. Odidi is running and remembering. He remembers through objects: the AK47 he throws away takes him back to a moment of transcendental communion through music and an occasion of buying a gift for 'his woman', whose name he cries out silently.

He discards the gun, he calls out love, returns to love. His gift is lingerie. What does it mean for two men to bond over the intimate femini
May 03, 2014 Teresa rated it really liked it
Recommended to Teresa by: Sue
I think if I knew more about Kenya, I would've give this an additional star, so take that as a failure of the reader, not the writer. The novel seems to be jam-packed with the country's history, people, landscape and even perhaps mythology, all of it starting with the murder of a young man and ending with a slow reveal of multiple secrets. It is an absorbing immersion into the inner and outer lives of the characters and the country.

As one example of how much I don't know, I thought the reference
Ron Charles
Feb 08, 2014 Ron Charles rated it really liked it
This winter offers an unusually rich bounty of novels about Africa. “Radiance of Tomorrow,” Ishmael Beah’s gracious story of rebuilding a village in Sierra Leone, was just the beginning. Next week, Susan Minot will publish “Thirty Girls,” which is about a Ugandan teenager kidnapped by the Lord’s Resistance Army; next month, we’ll get Teju Cole’s “Every Day Is for the Thief,” which focuses on a Ni­ger­ian American who returns to Lagos. And now we have an astonishing novel from Kenyan writer ...more
Friederike Knabe
Mar 25, 2014 Friederike Knabe rated it it was amazing
Shelves: africa, african-lit
Sometimes you open a book and you know immediately whether the writing will grab you and the first sentences promise that the story will carry you to the last. That was the case for me when I opened Dust , Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor's outstanding debut novel. In it Owuor weaves a rich and colourful tapestry of a land, its people and its recent history. The novel is as much a portrait of one family and its members' struggles and challenges, as it is the story of the land and the country, Kenya, from ...more
Aug 02, 2014 Catherine rated it it was ok
This book was hard for me. I did not really like the writing style in many places. The NYTimes review said "Only the reader who truly loves books — books full to brimming with imagery — will appreciate the magic Owuor has made of the classic nation-at-war novel. With splintered lyricism, she tells the story of the Oganda family...Owuor’s prose is a physical expression of the landscape it evokes: raw, fragmented, dense, opaque." Much of it was too splintered and opaque for me. On the other hand, ...more
Mar 22, 2014 Somogranny rated it it was ok
A very difficult read. The words are too flowery and the story is choppy and difficult to follow. Unfortunately because of the style of writing I will not finish this book.
Jun 27, 2014 Susan rated it really liked it
This book is a hard read.
A slog even.
Because of the themes it deals with.
And the writing style.
Fragmented in parts
There's a good story
But you will need patience.

And that's my attempt at recreating some of the prose in this book. The prologue is what really sets the stage for this story. A man is running, chased by a mob as we are treated to flashbacks from his life, it's fast paced and you can't help wanting to know: why was he killed? Who is he? And what led up to all this
Roger Brunyate
Jul 22, 2016 Roger Brunyate rated it it was ok
Shelves: africa, abandoned
Kenya, in Fragments

Before publication date in late January 2014, I hope that Amazon will have activated the "Look Inside" feature. The enthusiastic endorsements that have been used in advance publicity for this debut novel—praising its epic scale, emotional turmoil, and historic sweep—may well be true, but the reader has to feel comfortable enough with the actual writing to get the measure of the book. If the feature is enabled, read the first three pages. I had hoped that their staccato fragmen
DUST opens with a brilliant, charismatic hero running for his life through the streets of Nairobi. He's chased down, shot, and killed by the police. All in chapter 1. He returns only in his lingering affect on the novel's main characters.

What follows is spectacular, inventive, complex writing unlike anything I've read. There are mysteries in this book: mysteries of identity of parentage of disappearances and untimely deaths. These mysteries apply to the characters and to the country in which the
Aug 17, 2015 Ardene rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, favorites, 2014, kenya
Dust is a symphony of memories, love, and grief. I savored the reading, the language, the story – and I also had to read slowly lest I be be overwhelmed.

Ostensibly the story is of a family and what happens when Odidi, the adult son, is shot. Dust is also the story of the hopes, dreams, achievements and disappointments of Odidi and Ajany, their parents Nyipir and Akai, of Galgalu, of Isaiah’s search, of a wandering trader, and of two policemen, Petrus and Ali Dida Hada. It is also the story of Ke
Mar 06, 2016 MaggyGray rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-books-in-2016

Was für ein Buch! Da es ein Rezensionsexemplar von vorablesen war hat es mich zuerst so gar nicht interessiert, weil ich mit Afrika nicht die allerbesten Dinge verbinde, aber dann hat die Neugier doch gesiegt. Und ich kann nur sagen: zum Glück!

Worum geht's?

Odidi Oganda wird in einer Seitenstraße in Nairobi erschossen. Sein Vater Aggrey Nyipir Oganda möchte ihn zu ihrer Farm - Wuoth Ogik - bringen, um ihn dort zu begraben, Odidis Schwester Arabel Ajany Oganda, die aus Brasilien gekommen ist, ist
Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor

Product description:
From a breathtaking new voice, a novel about a splintered family in Kenya—a story of power and deceit, unrequited love, survival and sacrifice.
Odidi Oganda, running for his life, is gunned down in the streets of Nairobi. His grief-stricken sister, Ajany, just returned from Brazil, and their father bring his body back to their crumbling home in the Kenyan drylands, seeking some comfort and peace. But the murder has stirred memories long left untouched
John Wood
May 15, 2014 John Wood rated it it was amazing
It is rare one gets to read a novel that intimately explores a place intimately connected to one’s own life. It happens generally, of course. Novels explore matters of humanity and in that way touch us one way or another.

But Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor has written a novel of Kenya (but also perhaps of Africa, and that said also of the world), set mainly in northern Kenya, where I have lived and worked. She takes me to home away from home.

Not, however, by way of nostalgia. Much of this book jarred my m
Nov 28, 2015 Baratang rated it liked it
The story line had a lot of potential for a master piece. However, call it artistic or whatever, the book was damn difficult to read. Yvonne jumped all over without warning, leaving the reader wondering where she or he was at.

I think the book was raising an awareness about Kenya, with special reference to the ideal Kenya that The murdered Mr. Mboya sacrificed for, and the current mess the country finds itself into, in the hands of current politicians. The fictitious story around which the story
Feb 24, 2016 Amanda rated it really liked it
Gorgeous, luscious poetic writing -- but I got totally lost in the plot.
Ian Mond
Mar 27, 2015 Ian Mond rated it it was amazing
What’s It About

Short answer: The story of colonial and post colonial Kenya.

Long answer: The death of Odidi Oganda, gunned down in the streets of Nairobi, forces his family to face secrets from their past, secrets intertwined with the colonial and post colonial history of Kenya.

Should I Read It?

Absolutely you should. Dust is not a happy book, it’s steeped in the violence that Kenya and its people have faced during British rule and after the Mau Mau rebellion in 1963. But it’s not a “worthy” book
Jun 02, 2016 Anushka rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sprachgewaltig und gehaltvoll

Ajany kehrt aus Brasilien nach Kenia zurück, um gemeinsam mit ihrem Vater die Leiche ihres Bruders zu ihrer Farm zurückzuführen. Odidi wurde in den Straßen Nairobis erschossen. Nun bewegt sich Ajany auf den Spuren ihres Bruders, während die Mutter vor Kummer in die Wildnis geflohen ist. Zeitgleich taucht der Brite Isaiah auf, der auf der Suche nach seinem eigenen Vater auf der verfallenen Farm von Ajanys Familie landet. Alte Wunden reißen auf, die auch mit der Gesc
Jul 03, 2016 Tinea rated it really liked it
A poetic, haunting book weakened by over-use of poetic haunting. Suspense evaporates instead of crystallizing. Owuor writes well and opened up so many deep stories within this story, but they mostly fizzled, and what didn't fizzle took too long to explain because the plot was written in endless, breathless lines of one-word dialogue. Very tiring to read once one realizes there will never be a gulp of air. I began to learn so much and left with so many more questions-- about 2007 election ...more
Bwesigye Mwesigire
Sep 12, 2016 Bwesigye Mwesigire rated it really liked it
Yvonne Adhiambo Owour’s internationally acclaimed debut novel, Dust, begins in Nairobi, where a former rugby playing engineer turned thug, Ogidi, is shot by the police. We meet his painter-sister, Ajany, who comes for the funeral, his mother, Akai-Ma, his father, Nyipir, and a host of other characters as Ogidi’s remains lie at Wuoth Ogik, the homestead. We delve deep into individual stories that take us back and forth in time, to the Mau Mau campaign of the 1950s, the assassination of Tom Mboya, ...more
Full Stop
Jun 09, 2014 Full Stop added it
Shelves: spring-2014
Dust – Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor

by Emily Oppenheimer

[Knopf; 2014]

Dust, the debut novel by Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, begins with the unexplained murder of Odidi Oganda and ends with the awakening of buried secrets, the revelation of political corruption, and the confrontation of shame-faced fears. Odidi’s sister Ajany, mourning deeply, is at the emotional center of the interconnected lives of those whose memories are stoked by the violence, whose futures seem uncertain in wake of Odidi’s death. Upon her
Bob Pearson
Aug 20, 2015 Bob Pearson rated it really liked it
Allegory, fantasy, dismissive of time and space, prolix and yet a powerful story - a saga - of a Kenyan family and of Kenya's birth from colonialism and subsequent struggle to survive. Within this complex novel are three love stories and a tragic tale of a young Kenyan who believed in justice so strongly that he brought disaster upon himself. Owuor mixes English and various Kenyan dialects in her narrative. She thereby captures the richness of the culture she wants to describe but also confuses ...more
Feb 24, 2014 Jennifer rated it it was amazing
What Faulkner did for the American south and Joyce did for Ireland, Owuor has, in Dust, done for Africa. Her portrait of this land in turmoil is brilliantly enlivened by the souls, alive and dead, inhabiting it; their blood mixes with the swirling soil to form a permanent stain of existence, proof of the suffering and joy it has wrought upon them. Owuor's women are particularly nuanced, and Ajany strikes us with the force of Antigone in her loyalty to her brother's memory. This is a refreshingly ...more
Jul 15, 2014 MA rated it really liked it
My feelings were initially mixed about this book. I love Owuor’s prose. She has a magical way of describing places, events and objects. Clearly, she is a talented writer. This complex story is raw, harsh, and emotional. It revolves around the grief of a family and the corruption and the turbulence of modern day Kenya. Reading this novel required intense focus, I often had to go back and reread passages to make sure I was tracking the story. The plot and characters thoughts jump around quite a ...more
Chris Wharton
Some good elements but didn’t come together for me like I thought it would after NYT review. A family story from Kenya involves two deaths, one decades-old British, one modern Kenyan, and shifts between late colonial years, ‘60s independence, and the modern state, with its corruption, brutal police and power politics, and 2007 election violence. Interesting on all of these, and very good descriptive writing on the almost apocalyptic semi-arid remote northern Kenya landscape and life amidst it, ...more
Brenda Kodawa
Jul 16, 2014 Brenda Kodawa rated it really liked it
Not an easy read but rewarding all the same. I did feel that she dragged the story for a longer time than expected and then all of a sudden spewed the secrets almost as if in a hurry to finish. However, the vocabulary keeps you on the edge and it is a fresh new writing style I am glad to have been introduced to.
Nov 24, 2016 Triduana rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned, 2016
I really wanted to enjoy this book. It isn't the type of book I would normally pick up, but I was looking for something different, and the description grabbed me. However, I couldn't get on with the way the story was written. The prose came across more as some type of poetry (and I really dislike reading poetry). It seemed disjointed and cryptic and reading it was hard work. I persevered to around the halfway point, but reading shouldn't be hard work. It's a shame, as there was a good story ...more
Nov 14, 2016 Chad rated it really liked it
A stirring tale of discovery and the enduring cycle of starting again.
Nov 13, 2016 Olivia rated it it was amazing
Dust is unforgettable. I found it difficult to read-- especially at the beginning. Heart-crushing grief saturates nearly every page. But Owuor's prose is like the best poetry: the words will stir you to feel something like Ajany's overwhelming loss, and the novel asks profound questions about history, silence, and surviving.
Rhonda Hankins
Unique writing style that flows very nicely.
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Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor (born 1968) is a Kenyan writer, who was named "Woman of the Year" by Eve Magazine in Kenya in 2004 for her contribution to the country's literature and arts. She won the 2003 Caine Prize for African Writing for her story "Weight of Whispers", which considers an aristocratic Rwandan refugee in Kenya. The story was originally published in Kwani?, the Kenyan literary magazine ...more
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