Out of Darkness, Shining Light

A Novel

LIST PRICE $27.00
About The Book

“Engrossing, beautiful, and deeply imaginative, Out of Darkness, Shining Light is a novel that lends voice to those who appeared only as footnotes in history, yet whose final, brave act of loyalty and respect changed the course of it. An incredible and important book by a masterful writer.” ​—Yaa Gyasi, author of Homegoing

“This is how we carried out of Africa the poor broken body of Bwana Daudi, the Doctor, David Livingstone, so that he could be borne across the sea and buried in his own land.” So begins Petina Gappah's powerful novel of exploration and adventure in nineteenth-century Africa—the captivating story of the loyal men and women who carried explorer and missionary Dr. Livingstone's body, his papers and maps, fifteen hundred miles across the continent of Africa, so his remains could be returned home to England and his work preserved there. Narrated by Halima, the doctor's sharp-tongued cook, and Jacob Wainwright, a rigidly pious freed slave, this is a story that encompasses all of the hypocrisy of slavery and colonization—the hypocrisy at the core of the human heart—while celebrating resilience, loyalty, and love.

About The Author
Photograph by Henry Oliver Hakulandaba

Petina Gappah is an award-winning and widely translated Zimbabwean writer. She is the author of two novels, Out of Darkness, Shining Light, The Book of Memory, and two short story collections, Rotten Row and An Elegy for Easterly. Her work has also been published in, among others, The New YorkerDer Spiegel, The Financial Times, and the Africa Report. For many years, Petina worked as an international trade lawyer at the highest levels of diplomacy in Geneva where she advised more than seventy developing countries from Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Latin America on trade law and policy.  Petina has also been a DAAD Writing Fellow in Berlin, an Open Society Fellow and a Livingstone Scholar at Cambridge University.  She has law degrees from Cambridge, Graz University in Austria, and the University of Zimbabwe. She currently lives in Harare.

Why We Love It

“Three things drew me to Out of Darkness, Shining Light: language, story, and historical context. Starting with context, David Livingstone died just a few years before the ‘scramble for Africa,’ the moment when Europe divided and colonized Africa. This is a charged time in European and African history…the characters are based on real people…the language…adds richness and depth…restores the voices of those erased by history.” —Kathy B., VP, Executive Editor, on Out of Darkness, Shining Light

Product Details
  • Publisher: Scribner (September 2019)
  • Length: 320 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781982110338

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Raves and Reviews

A Lit Hub Most Anticipated Book of 2019

"A rich, vivid, and addictive book filled with memorably drawn characters. This is a humane, riveting, epic novel that spotlights marginalized historical voices.” 
Kirkus, starred

"A deep probing of the contradictions and wounds of colonization."
Library Journal

“Engrossing, beautiful, and deeply imaginative, Out of Darkness, Shining Light, is a novel that lends voice to those who appeared only as footnotes in history, yet whose final, brave act of loyalty and respect changed the course of it.  An incredible and important book by a masterful writer.”
—Yaa Gyasi, author of Homegoing

“Petina Gappah’s Out of Darkness, Shining Light describes a world on the cusp of change.  Her narrators, Halima and Jacob, both former slaves—along with a cohort of sixty-some Africans and Arabs—carry a dead muzungu (white person) for nine months across impossible 19th-century African terrain. While they ultimately reach their destination, delivering a wizened body to the awaiting arms of their future colonizers, the greater catastrophe is still to come. Petina Gappah knows what she writes; her historical and cultural insights add texture and veracity to every page. A powerful novel, beautifully told, Out of Darkness, Shining Light reveals as much about the present circumstances as the past that helped create them.”
—Jesmyn Ward, author of Sing, Unburied, Sing

“Mixing painstaking research with a formidable imagination, Petina Gappah resurrects the brave, misguided, heroic, and ill-starred party who hauled the dried-up corpse of Dr. David Livingstone across 1,000 miles of African interior to the Indian Ocean. Her narrators, a hilarious cook named Halima and a sanctimonious Christian named Jacob, cut a swath through a continent at the crossroads of colonization, superstition, religion and slavery, illuminating the contradictions inherent in every life. This is a beautiful novel.”
—Anthony Doerr, author of All the Light We Cannot See  

“A sweeping epic that is also startlingly intimate, Out of Darkness, Shining Light is a revelation.  In luminous prose, Petina Gappah gives voice to people silenced by history, allowing them the full scope of their humanity, from petty gossip to self-righteous evangelism to romantic longings and dreams for the future. She grapples with what it means to explore other cultures, to seek answers to the questions ‘what if?’ and ‘what else?’ In doing so, she holds a funhouse mirror up to colonialist narratives like Heart of Darkness, revealing their distortions.”
Christina Baker Kline, author of Orphan Train

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