Zimbabwean author Farai Mudzingwa has a debut novel coming out on September 26 titled Avenues by Train. We are so excited to share some behind-the-scenes info about the bold cover for Mudzingwa’s novel published by Cassava Republic.

The book cover depicts an angry black bull charging into the scene surrounded by speech bubbles colored shades of red, pink, and maroon. The background has a pastel watercolor quality to it with swirls of glitter and paint. The vibrant cover is hard to turn away from. The cover designer Jamie Keenan definitely understood the assignment.

In Avenues by Train, 7-year-old Jedza believes his life is haunted after he witnesses a tragic incident involving a train and the death of his close friend in his hometown. In his mid-20s now, Jedza moves to Harare in the hopes that he will escape the darkness of his past. But he keeps seeing strange things like mysterious pools of water rising under musasa trees.

The cover designer Keenan and the author worked together to draw inspiration from the book, focusing on the central theme of water. They picked out a passage from the book to visualize:

The bull, roaring and plunging, takes off into the pool sending cascades of water up in all directions. The sudden fountain of gleaming water ruptures the aqueous orb, a rich globule of viscosity and light that envelopes the gathering.

Keenan adds, “I love how random and chaotic this all sounds, so I’ve put the image together in quite a loose way using different styles, made the drops slightly crude and included the type as part of the image and placed it all at odd angles, so that no part of the cover feels stable or static.”

The cover hearkens to the fantastical nature of the book, where the main character Jedza lives in the shadowy restless atmosphere of the Avenues and is tormented by the past. He keeps remembering the disappearance of his sister and their early encounters with ancestral spirits like the shapeshifting njuzu and vengeful ngozi. The author Mudzingwa remarked about the cover design:

Because of the layered allegorical elements in the novel, we had to think laterally to get away from the predictable. The cover works in concert with the back cover blurb, the title and the first chapter. We intended for the vibrant hues to catch the eye of the bookshop browser, then the blurb hints at the main themes; the first chapter, short and incisive, then simultaneously creates a huge “a-ha” and “wtf” moment for the reader, sparking intrigue. But that is only the beginning, the layered depth of the cover image is then slowly peeled away as the reader inches into the darker regions of the novel.The enchanted black bull resisting submergence in a cascade of water hints at rage, despair and atonement – running themes throughout the novel. The black bull is a prime sacrificial gift to the fluid ancestral spirits yet is also a draft animal. This progenitor to the iron bull, the locomotive, the supreme beast of burden.

We are certain the story will just as exciting as the book cover! Preorder Mudzingwa’s Avenues by Train here.