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Though Okojie usually leaves enough unsaid for personal interpretation, on occasion there’s a tendency to tell rather than show — “Couldn’t somebody see that she disappeared into Grace Jones because the pain . . . of being herself was unbearable?” Some stories, like “Mangata” — which follows an architect returning to his home town in northern Mozambique, determined to install a series of water fountains — would be better if they were longer, allowed to fully capture an atmosphere. Nonetheless there’s an irresistible lure to these disparate, experimental works reminiscent of Carmen Maria Machado, Kristen Roupenian or the gothic magic of Isabel Allende. This is writing at its most vital: poignant, performative and disturbing.
In other stories we find “cavernous caves”, “generic, non-specific advice”; “a small smattering”. The occasional tautology is hardly unforgivable, but these are emblematic of an unfinished quality that mars parts of this collection. Okojie displays a poet’s verve for creating unusual combinations of words, but sometimes they, and these stories, are some distance away from their final and most effective iterations. That is frustrating, because, like the nudibranch molluscs of the title story, her work is also notable for its “extraordinary colours and striking forms”.