A “vivid, urgent debut” (Entertainment Weekly) that “recalls Zadie Smith’s masterpiece White Teeth” (Kirkus, starred review) and follows a young man faced with a fraught decision: escape a dangerous past alone, or brave his old life and keep the woman he loves
One of The Guardian’s Top 10 Debuts of the Year
One of Entertainment Weekly’s Most Anticipated Books of the Summer
Sayon Hughes longs to escape the volatile Bristol neighborhood known as Ends, the tight-knit but sometimes lawless world in which he was raised, and forge a better life with Shona, the girl he’s loved since grade school. With few paths out, he is drawn into dealing drugs alongside his cousin, the unpredictable but fiercely loyal Cuba. Sayon is on the cusp of making a clean break when an altercation with a rival dealer turns deadly and an expected witness threatens blackmail, upending his plans.
Sayon’s loyalties are torn. If Shona learns the secret of his crime, he will lose her forever. But if he doesn’t escape Ends now, he may never get another chance. Is it possible to break free of the bookies’ tickets, burnt spoons, and crooked solutions, and still keep the love of his life?
Rippling with authenticity and power, Moses McKenzie’s dazzling debut brings to life a vibrant and teeming world we have read too little about. In its sheer lyrical power, An Olive Grove in Ends recalls the work of James Baldwin and marks the arrival of an exciting and formidable new voice.
Moses McKenzie is of Caribbean descent and grew up in Bristol, UK, where he still lives and writes full-time. He is twenty-three years old. An Olive Grove in Ends is his first novel.
“Set among a richly drawn cast in a Jamaican-Somali community in Bristol, An Olive Grove in Ends follows the turbulent, often painful childhood and teens of Sayon, a drug dealer trying to keep his crimes secret from the pastor’s daughter he’s in love with. His engrossing first-person narrative, lyrical and slangy by turns, is the vehicle for a tough yet tender story of faith and friendship.”—The Guardian
“This vivid, urgent debut grapples with fate and circumstance as it follows Sayon, an ambitious young dreamer whose turn to drug-dealing comes with brutal consequences.”—Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly
“A gripping, gritty coming-of-age story... McKenzie’s creation of this character is so full of heart and authenticity that we never stop caring about him, rooting for him to dig his way out of the ever deeper avalanche of trouble. With all its dialects and patois, this book is fantastic in audio and even more so because the author’s own brother, Louis McKenzie, an accomplished actor, reads it aloud.”—Marion Winik, WYPR Baltimore
“There is an impressive depth to McKenzie’s storytelling. Biblical references and Jamaican proverbs punctuate the narrative, while the grittiness is offset by an unexpected tenderness… The book’s skillful, knife-edge climax has a cinematic tension, fueled by the sad inevitability of a life lived on the streets. Brutal in places but always beautiful, An Olive Grove in Ends is a bullishly brilliant debut by a young author with a very bright future.”—Ashley Hickson-Lovence, The Observer
“A complex tale of family and faith that is also a thrilling page-turner… it’s so good, I might just read it again before the summer is up.”—Tom Beer, Kirkus
“McKenzie’s gripping debut proves him to be a keen-eyed new writer to watch.”—K.W. Colyard, Bustle
“Engrossing… McKenzie has delivered a remarkable debut full of wisdom.”—Ian Parker, I-Magazine
“An Olive Grove in Ends is a remarkable debut, bristling with sharp prose and daring originality. Moses McKenzie offers us a fascinating glimpse into the vibrant world of Ends, whose colorful inhabitants—Sayon in particular—will linger with readers long after the novel comes to a close.”—Nathan Harris, author of the New York Times bestseller The Sweetness of Water
“An Olive Grove in Ends chronicles the hard graft and grit of ghetto life in a poignant coming-of-age story rendered in the crackling song of a multi-ethnic UK street. McKenzie offers a rare glimpse into the harsh realities of street life and love in luminous prose, rendered with sensitivity and without sentimentalism. An astonishing debut novel!”—Cherie Jones, author of How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House
“An Olive Grove in Ends is just incredible! The story is completely gripping and expertly paced, the characterization is rounded and complex. I’m in awe of how fully the nuances of the relationships come through in such small details that speak large. And the language—oh my—what an impressive range of registers Moses hits with such beauty in the lyrical bits, such music in the dialogue, and such efficiency throughout. Zero fluff.”—Melissa Fu, author of Peach Blossom Spring
“What struck me most forcibly about An Olive Grove in Ends is the poetic strength and majesty of its prose—as the author himself might have it, ‘like clarified honey.’ From an author of such tender years, this consummately crafted work can only be a harbinger of a stellar and truly significant career. I urge you to read it.”—Patrick McCabe, two-time Booker Prize finalist and author of The Butcher Boy
“An Olive Grove in Ends is magnificent. Moses McKenzie’s talent is off the scale. It’s a long time since a novel gripped me so tightly . . . This is a phenomenally good novel, tense and thrilling and complex, with breath-stealing moments on every page.”—Donal Ryan, two-time Booker Prize nominee and author of The Spinning Heart
“Recalling Zadie Smith’s masterpiece White Teeth, this is the most exciting UK debut in years... Drug violence, religious strife, and a star-crossed romance play out in this Shakespearean tale set in a Bristol neighborhood of Caribbean and Somali immigrants called Ends… A gritty coming-of-age tale for the ages.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Sayon’s world is so rich to inhabit. His family and conflicts are alive and dynamic on every page, a testament to McKenzie’s electrifying sense of voice.”—Courtney Eathorne, Booklist
“Beautiful… McKenzie renders the neighborhood’s rich and complicated social and familial networks as a study in contrasts, where violence and betrayal coexist with generosity and kindness… An Olive Grove in Ends exhibits both a tenderness for the residents and an unflinching examination of their struggles… a gorgeous debut that nurtures an unlikely sort of hope.”—Publishers Weekly