Leila Aboulela’s latest novel will be released March 2023 by Grove Press. Titled River Spirit, the novel explores the imperialist history of Sudan during the Mahdist War in the 19th century.

Aboulela’s novel is an “enchanting narrative of the years leading up to the British conquest of Sudan in 1898, and a deeply human look at the tensions between Britain and Sudan, Christianity and Islam, colonizer and colonized.” The book features a young woman named Akuany who is orphaned in a village raid in South Sudan. Akuany and her brother are taken in by a kind, young merchant Yaseen.

Nobel Laureate Abdulrazak Gurnah described River Spirit as a “novel of extraordinary sympathy and insight; a wonderful achievement.” Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi remarked that River Spirit is her best read this year; Aboulela’s writing is urgent and critical, and “she joins writers like Maaza Mengiste, Namwali Serpell and Ayesha Haruna Atta in excavating history, breathing life into it, and presenting it in a new light.”

Read the full book description below:

As a revolutionary leader rises to power–the self-proclaimed Mahdi, prophesied redeemer of Islam–Sudan begins to slip from the grasp of Ottoman rule, and everyone must choose a side. A scholar of the Qur’an, Yaseen feels beholden to stand against this false Mahdi, even as his choice splinters his family. Meanwhile, Akuany moves through her young adulthood and across the country alone, sold and traded from house to house, with Yaseen as her inconsistent lifeline. Everything each of them is striving for–love, freedom, safety–is all on the line in the fight for Sudan.

River Spirit is the story of Sudan’s people as they fought to gain independence from foreign rule through “willpower, subterfuge, and sacrifice.” Based on the description, the novel sounds like it will be a resounding success and we cannot wait to find out more about Akuany’s coming-of-age journey amid the dangers of 19th century Sudan.

Leila Aboulela is an award-winning Sudanese author who currently lives in Scotland. She has written numerous novels including Bird Summons (2019), The Kindness of Enemies (2015), Lyrics Alley (2010), Minaret (2005), and The Translator (1999). She was the winner of the Scottish Book of the Year award for Fiction for Lyrics Alley and the first winner of the Caine Prize for African Fiction back in 2000.

Congrats to Aboulela on the new release! River Spirit will be out March 7, 2023 in the US. Preorder here.

The UK edition will be published by Saqi. Stay tuned for details about the UK preorder link and cover reveal.