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Crooked Seeds

In her parched, crumbling corner of a Cape Town public housing complex, Deidre van Deventer receives a call from the police. The remains of several bodies have just been unearthed from her family’s former home, after decades underground. Detectives pepper her with questions about her brother, and his dealings with a pro-apartheid group in the 1990s with terrorist leanings.

Deirdre doesn’t know the answers to most of these questions. All she knows is that she was denied—repeatedly—the life she felt she deserved. But 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 confront her own shattered memories so that something better might emerge from what remains. Crooked Seeds is a singularly powerful novel, in exquisitely spare prose, about the ways we become trapped in prisons of our own making.


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ABC Radio National: The Bookshelf     
ABC Radio National: The Book Show (0:31:10)    
Age: Eight books: A novel of apartheid’s legacy, and the question of death    
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Publishers Weekly    

Karen Jennings
About the Author

Karen Jennings is a South African writer whose novel An Island was longlisted for the Booker Prize. She lives in Cape Town and is a writer-in-residence at the Laboratory for the Economics of Africa’s Past, Stellenbosch University.

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16 April 2024
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Praise for Karen Jennings
andCrooked Seeds

‘This is an extraordinary novel. It is shattering, almost bearable, yet—so good, so clear—it is unputdownable.’

‘Karen Jennings’ Crooked Seeds has a moral and psychological precision that sharpens its examination of apartheid’s legacy, and affects a bleak study, unsparing but compassionate, of a character broken by trauma.’

‘The open-ended conclusion leaves readers with much to ponder about South Africa’s painful history and the stories Deirdre has told herself to survive. There are no easy answers in Jennings’s knotty narrative.’

‘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. A quietly devastating novel.’

‘Karen Jennings is a modern master of the castaway novel. Her characters are often exiled from the world—physically or psychologically, sometimes both. Crooked Seeds’ Deidre and Trudy are unforgettable characters living on the margins of life. Together they make this an unsparing, yet profoundly beautiful novel.’

‘The past comes back to haunt a woman whose life is deteriorating in this powerful new novel from [South African] Booker Prize-longlisted author 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.’

‘Jennings writes cleanly and crisply. Her brusque, unfiltered treatment of uncomfortable subject-matter is redolent of fellow South African author, Marlene van Niekerk. Structured around short chapters, Crooked Seeds is a pacy read, but with plenty of substance for pondering. She allows the mystery that underpins the narrative to unfold organically, and leaves just enough questions unanswered to keep the story lingering long after the final page. This is simply a sensational piece of writing.’

‘An astonishing, beautifully written novel.’

‘An extraordinary story. Absolutely brilliant and proof again…that fiction can tell us more about our human condition than most journalism can…It’s an amazing book with an incredible story at the heart of it.’

Crooked Seeds is masterful in its intent and execution and with it, Karen Jennings joins the ranks of South Africa’s great writers.’

‘5 stars. This searing psychodrama grabs you by the throat.’

Other editions ofCrooked Seeds
  • Crooked Seeds
    ISBN: 9781922791733
    16 April 2024
    Buy ebook
Other Titles byKaren Jennings