paper • 320 pages • 19.95

Malawi’s Sisters

Melanie S. Hatter

Featured on Ms. Magazine’s Blog

Featured in Ms. Magazine

Hatter’s artful, moving novel looks closely at the murder of a young black woman and her family’s devastation. Old—and new—questions about race and civil rights in 21st Century America arise alongside the unfolding story of Malawi and those who live in the wake of her loss. 

“Whether random or at the hands of authorities or of vigilantes, daily, black men and women become victims of the epidemic of gun violence sweeping the United States. Malawi’s Sisters considers the consequences on those left behind. An early morning phone call disrupts the seemingly placid lives of Judge Malcolm Walker and his artist wife, Bet. The Walker family, including daughters Kenya and Ghana, struggle to come to terms with what it means when those you love are taken in ways that are somehow both random as well as predictable.”
—David Haynes, Kimbilio Co-Founder and Program Director, Author of A Star in the Face of the Sky

From Malawi’s Sisters, “Chapter 4”

“Malcolm looked at the blinds covering the window. He knew what was downstairs. The word “downstairs” was better than the word “basement,” which was where most hospitals housed the morgue. He and Bet were here now to identify their baby girl, not to console her and pay the hospital bill, though that would come later in the mail. Malcolm wasn’t sure his daughter had health insurance. He should know these things. As her father, he should know whether or not his daughter had health insurance.

“Why don’t you take a moment and sit down,” said Dr. Kosi, extending his arm to the chairs behind them.

Malcolm gripped Bet by the shoulders, almost dragging her to a standing position. He thought the words, let’s sit, but nothing came out of his mouth. He tried to take a step but his feet were weighted with invisible blocks and his knees began to shake. He almost dropped Bet in an effort to grab the desk to stop himself from falling. “Please, Bet,” he said, feebly. This was not the judge’s voice. It was the voice of a tiny man afraid of having to identify his daughter’s body.”

Praise by Edwidge Danticat, judge of the inaugural Kimbilio National Fiction Prize
Praise by Kirkus Reviews
Praise by Sarah Trembath for The Washington Independent Review of Books

“This story is both timely and well executed. We rarely see the private side of the devastating aftermath of police/vigilante/help-seeking and shot-related deaths that this writer describes here in such a suspenseful and nuanced manner. This is the kind of book that might encourage and inspire in depth conversations and discussions and help readers think more deeply about a subject they might have mistakenly thought they knew all about.”

“[Hatter] weave[s] the events of the story with the characters’ pasts, unveiling their motivations, and encouraging readers to regard them with compassion, all while attempting to capture the energy of a larger social moment.”

“…When Hatter set her new novel in Washington’s Gold Coast and named its main characters Malawi, Ghana, and Kenya, I suspect she was saying, ‘Make no mistake. What’s going on today in this place (America), in this time (now) is just as tragic as that historical mess.’ She is also, by naming her characters after the countries that arose from that terrible era, declaring a proud heritage. And finally, she is evoking the centuries-long tension between blackness, all-that-glitters, and death….But Malawi’s Sisters is not without joy; it is no dreary story. The novel moves quickly, as its author has that rare gift of saying just enough to keep readers reading and giving enough to make them understand. We truly know the characters, and we believe them as they find agency in the midst of a terrible loss….” Read the full review.