The Hundred Wells of Salaga

A Novel


Publication Date: Feb 05, 2019

240 pp

Trade Paperback

List Price US $16.99

Ebook

List Price US $9.99


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.



Excerpt from The Hundred Wells of Salaga

Wurche had learned that European kings sat on thrones. The Asante kings sat on stools. Gonja kings and chiefs sat on skins. When you were made king, you were enskinned—given lion and leopard hides. The higher you were, the more power you had, the more sophisticated your animal skin. Said to have been sat on by Namba, Gonja’s founding father, the skins of the Kpembe king were prized. Etuto sat on leopard skins, which had now been laid out in the farmhouse’s courtyard. They were surrounded by a spread of mats woven in greens, reds, yellows and indigos, and leather poufs were plopped in every corner. The women outside Etuto’s hut were fluffing pillows, straightening mats, setting down bowls of kola. The children of the farm jumped from pouf to pouf until Mma appeared and shooed them away. The slip of Wurche’s new silk smock was so smooth, she felt as if she were wearing nothing. She missed the itch of her normal smocks and especially the worn smell of the ones she liked to repeat.

“You’re worse than a wall gecko,” Mma often said to her, because geckos always went back to the same place.

Mma, noticing Wurche, rushed over to her, scooped a vial of kohl from between her breasts, and started applying it to Wurche’s eyes. She then doused her in a fragrance both holy and lucky because, its vendor said, it had come all the way from Mecca.

“You look beautiful,” said Mma. Wurche felt naked. And strangely afraid.


“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

“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

“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

“A powerful and moving novel that intricately explores the Salaga slave market as it hurtles toward its final days, seen through the eyes of two women whose opposite circumstances converge. Attah’s gift is her staggering ability to depict the personal within the past, to show us a moment in Ghana’s history from those who lived it, making for an urgent, poignant experience.” —Gabe Habash, author of Stephen Florida

“Attah expertly juggles the grand, brutal scope of Ghana’s history with the mysteries of her family’s past. The result is a novel that’s as sweeping as it is intimate—a wholly immersive story that explores loss and dignity with wit, wisdom, and astounding compassion.” —Grant Ginder, author of The People We Hate at the Wedding

“With this necessary examination of West African slavery as it was experienced in West Africa, Ayesha Harruna Attah presents not only a fresh perspective on the transatlantic human trade, but a nuanced exploration of the human heart. A mess of moral contradictions and inconvenient passions are par for the course in The Hundred Wells of Salaga, driving each character to unexpected detours and the story itself past predictable morals.” —Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond, author of Powder Necklace

“Ayesha’s prose is festive, reminiscent of the drumbeats of old, yet with a modern rhythm and pace at its core. Her sentences are firm, muscular, vibrant and well structured, creating an imagery that stays with you long after you have finished reading the novel. Her ability to depict joyful scenes alongside heart-breaking ones is what makes the novel thrive and gives it its exceptional realism. Ayesha’s depiction of the lives of the characters and the description of the novel’s setting and atmosphere is so incisive the reader could almost hear the sounds of the horses and the market, smell the sweat and blood of the slave girl, and even feel as if he or she is walking the streets of Old Salaga. The novel is a rich tapestry of humanity in all its ugliest and glorious forms. This is feminist writing at its best, an homage to Queen Amina and Yaa Asantewaa, women whose gallantry defied the status females were relegated to in mid to late nineteenth-century West Africa.” —Mohammed Naseehu Ali, author of The Prophet of Zongo Street

“An instant modern classic. Gave me the same feeling as when I finished reading Things Fall Apart; like something deep within me had shifted, and would never be the same again.” —JJ Bola, author of No Place To Call Home

“An enchanting narrative that keeps the reader spellbound from beginning to end. Attah’s words are cowrie shells, each one in place in soulful sentences bursting with profound meaning. The characters are exquisite and infused with uncommon dignity; these are not just unthinking stick figures, but real, breathing, thinking people drawn from the tapestry of Africa’s rich history. Love oozes out of the pores of this gorgeous book. In its humanity, in the longing and hurts of its beautiful characters, the reader comes face to face with the beauty of our shared humanity as brave women walk tall, roaming the land.” —Ikhide R. Ikheloa, cultural critic



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