What We Lose

A Novel
Narrated by: Nicole Lewis
Length: 3 hrs and 47 mins
3.8 out of 5 stars (134 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Named a Best Book of the Year by Vogue, NPR, Elle, Esquire, BuzzfeedSan Francisco Chronicle, Cosmopolitan, The Huffington Post, The A.V. Club, The RootHarper’s Bazaar, PasteBustleKirkus Reviews, Electric Literature, LitHub, New York Post, Los Angeles Review of Books, and Bust 

“The debut novel of the year.” (Vogue) 

“Like so many stories of the black diaspora, What We Lose is an examination of haunting.” (Doreen St. Félix, The New Yorker) 

“Raw and ravishing, this novel pulses with vulnerability and shimmering anger.” (Nicole Dennis-Benn, O, the Oprah Magazine) 

“Stunning...Powerfully moving and beautifully wrought, What We Lose reflects on family, love, loss, race, womanhood, and the places we feel home.” (Buzzfeed) 

“Remember this name: Zinzi Clemmons. Long may she thrill us with exquisite works like What We Lose.... The book is a remarkable journey.” (Essence) 

From an author of rare, haunting power, a stunning novel about a young African-American woman coming of age - a deeply felt meditation on race, sex, family, and country 

Raised in Pennsylvania, Thandi views the world of her mother’s childhood in Johannesburg as both impossibly distant and ever present. She is an outsider wherever she goes, caught between being Black and White, American and not. She tries to connect these dislocated pieces of her life, and as her mother succumbs to cancer, Thandi searches for an anchor - someone, or something, to love. 

In arresting and unsettling prose, we watch Thandi’s life unfold, from losing her mother and learning to live without the person who has most profoundly shaped her existence, to her own encounters with romance and unexpected motherhood. Through exquisite and emotional vignettes, Clemmons creates a stunning portrayal of what it means to choose to live, after loss. An elegiac distillation, at once intellectual and visceral, of a young woman’s understanding of absence and identity that spans continents and decades, What We Lose heralds the arrival of a virtuosic new voice in fiction.

©2017 Zinzi Clemmons (P)2017 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

A National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 Honoree

NBCC John Leonard First Book Prize Finalist

Aspen Words Literary Prize Finalist

California Book Award First Fiction Finalist

Hurston/Wright Legacy Award Debut Novel Nominee

Longlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction & the Brooklyn Public Library Literary Prize

"A piercingly beautiful first novel." (Danzy Senna, author of New People)

What listeners say about What We Lose

Average Customer Ratings
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Not a memoir ... Not a novel either??

The subject matter was compelling and relatable but the style yielded no connection to the characters.

3 people found this helpful

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Couldn't even finish

I am not sure what book the positive reviewers read, but I hated this book. There is no depth or purpose to the writing at all. Total ramblings of someone that just wants to talk. Nothing is grounded or relatable or even worthy of sharing. There is no insight into her experiences; experiences and thoughts that were just thrown together like doing a load of laundry without taking the time to sort. Let's just throw everything inside and assume it comes out clean. Only because it is a very short book did I even make it 2/3 of the way through before quitting for something else....anything else...silence is better. Really terrible. I was so excited to read this book and so unbelievably disappointed in it.

2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars

Very real & thought provoking

I enjoyed it, I thought it was very down-to-earth and very real and I especially liked it when she interjected with the African accent.
I enjoyed listening to her story.

2 people found this helpful

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Blah Blah Blah

This book was about the relationships that we ultimately lose. The book did not have any highs or lows throughout it. Every chapter read the same. There were times when I wasn't even sure where the story was going. When the book ended I still felt that way.

1 person found this helpful

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Quite an awkward experience

As a South African living in the US with an American husband and half American, half South African kids- I found the perspectives within the book very interesting. The great emphasis on the crime when describing South Africa was very disappointing; although some of it true- I found the extent to which the author went, very unnecessary and unfair. Explaining the race to which her mom belonged (me as well) as based purely on skin color was inaccurate and incomplete. Although skin color was used to divide under the apartheid govt, I think it important to mention that being ‘colored’ ( a term coined by the Apartheid govt) in South Africa has evolved into a strong culture with people of all shades sharing history and traditions. More importantly, the author failed to mention that most ‘colored’ people are descendants of the indigenous people of South Africa , namely the Khoisan and Griqua tribes whose history and ‘First Nation’ status was erased and obliterated by the European colonists and then the Apartheid govt. This race is separate from the Bantu tribes who migrated from Central Africa to South Africa (namely the Zulu, Xhosa, Sotho tribes, to name a few). As an author, it’s so important to relate all the facts in order to educate and spread truth. As for the accents of the mom and the cousin back in South Africa- I cringed and cringed some more. I was able to relax as the story unfolded in the US. The journey of experiencing the death of a parent was heartfelt and genuine.

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What we lose

This book showed us how it was to grow up different and in different town and hears

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so beautiful

As soon as I started listening I couldn't put it down. the structure was beautiful and the end indifinitive. Her situation and grief are so real and comparable that you find yourself looking for shadows of it in your own life. Thank you for this.

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loved it!

I kept meaning to read this and I even tried a hard copy version first but this audible book was amazing. I will definitely recommend this!

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Difficult to stay in the present

The flashbacks maybe in vogue but there was an excessive number of them. It was at times difficult to keep track of what was present and what was history. Obviously she was very affected by her mother's death and it impacted every aspect of her life but listening to the book may have made it more difficult to follow.

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Solid.

Not life altering, but good. Nice imagery and feeling but predictable. Straight forward story line and informative if you're not familiar with the apartheid.