2020 fiction finalist

Ayesha Harruna Attah | The Hundred Wells of Salaga: A Novel

Ayesha Harruna AttahAbout the author
Ayesha Harruna Attah grew up in Accra, Ghana and was educated at Mount Holyoke College, Columbia University, and New York University. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times MagazineAsymptote Magazine, and the 2010 Caine Prize Writers’ Anthology. Attah is an Instituto Sacatar Fellow and was awarded the 2016 Miles Morland Foundation Scholarship for nonfiction. She lives in Senegal.

About the book
Based on true events, a story of courage, forgiveness, love, and freedom in precolonial Ghana, told through the eyes of two women born to vastly different fates. Aminah lives an idyllic life until she is brutally separated from her home and forced on a journey that transforms her from a daydreamer into a resilient woman. Wurche, the willful daughter of a chief, is desperate to play an important role in her father’s court. These two women’s lives converge as infighting among Wurche’s people threatens the region, during the height of the slave trade at the end of the nineteenth century. Through the experiences of Aminah and Wurche, The Hundred Wells of Salaga offers a remarkable view of slavery and how the scramble for Africa affected the lives of everyday people.

“[A] dazzling historical drama.” —The New Yorker

“A skillful portrayal of life in pre-colonial Ghana emphasizes distinctions of religion, language, and status…[Attah] has a careful eye for domestic and historical detail.” —The Guardian

“Illuminating…Attah’s exceptional research of the era shines through, making for a convincing historical novel.” —Publishers Weekl

“Compelling…rich and nuanced…Attah is adept at leading readers across the varied terrain of 19th-century Ghana and handles heavy subjects with aplomb. Two memorable women anchor this pleasingly complicated take on slavery, power, and freedom.” —Kirkus Reviews

“An alluring story…a novel with the power to open eyes and hearts while filling minds with plenty of food for thought.” —Shelf Awareness

“Layered and thought-provoking…Attah gives both shape and immediacy to an insoluble riddle of the human condition.” —Los Angeles Review of Books

“Analogous to Tsitsi Dangarembga’s Commonwealth Writers’ Prize–winning Nervous Conditions, this spacious work will appeal to readers of African and historical fiction.” Library Journal

“Attah’s novel gives a texture and specificity to the anonymous tales of the Middle Passage.” —The MillionsMost Anticipated

“A harrowing yet moving and important story…compelling…Salaga comes vividly alive as both a seething melting pot and a place where destinies are dictated. Attah’s characters are fascinating because they are morally complex…brilliantly and movingly told.” —The National

“Beautiful storytelling…beguiling…The Hundred Wells of Salaga will appeal to the heart and the head.” —NB

“This fascinating novel set in 19th-century Ghana illuminates the social class status that surrounded the slave trade in the region, and how families were both destroyed and reconstructed in light of this evil business.” —Electric Literature