Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

Small Worlds

by Caleb Azumah Nelson

An exhilarating and expansive new novel about fathers and sons, faith and friendship from National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 honoree and Costa First Novel Award winning author Caleb Azumah Nelson

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 336
  • Publication Date July 16, 2024
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-6341-7
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $17.00
  • Imprint Grove Hardcover
  • Page Count 272
  • Publication Date July 18, 2023
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-6196-3
  • Dimensions 6" x 9"
  • US List Price $27.00
  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Publication Date July 18, 2023
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-6197-0
  • US List Price $27.00

One of the most acclaimed and internationally bestselling “unforgettable” (New York Times) debuts of 2021, Caleb Azumah Nelson’s London-set love story Open Water took the US by storm and introduced the world to a salient and insightful new voice in fiction. Now, with his second novel Small Worlds, the prodigious Azumah Nelson brings another set of enduring characters to brilliant life in his signature rhythmic, melodic prose.

Set over the course of three summers, Small Worlds follows Stephen, a first-generation Londoner born to Ghanaian immigrant parents, brother to Ray, and best friend to Adeline. On the cusp of big life changes, Stephen feels pressured to follow a certain path—a university degree, a move out of home—but when he decides instead to follow his first love, music, his world and family fractures in ways he didn’t foresee. Now Stephen must find a path and peace for himself: a space he can feel beautiful, a space he can feel free.

Moving from London, England to Accra, Ghana and back again, Small Worlds is an exquisite and intimate new novel about the people and places we hold close, from one of the most “elegant, poetic” (CNN) and important voices of a generation.

Tags Literary

Praise for Small Worlds:

Shortlisted for the Orwell Prize for Political Fiction
Shortlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize
Longlisted for the Jhalak Prize
A Most Anticipated Book of the Year for The Millions, i-D MagazineEsquire (UK), The GuardianHuffington Post (UK), BellaNaija and Literary Hub
A Best Book of Summer from Elle, Time, Times (UK), Marie Claire, Literary Hub, the New York Times, the Boston Globe, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and the New Statesman
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2023

“Masterful.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune

Small Worlds also shows how language, particularly narrative, can repair relationships or mend bridges between people . . . The point of language in moments like these . . . [is] simply to make a thoughtful offering in the hope that it meets with understanding, and maybe to build community. This, I believe, is the most important work that Nelson is doing with his words, and I look forward to seeing what he does with them next.”Brooklyn Rail

“An ode to the West African immigrant community in London, a coming-of-age tale of young love and yearning, and a quietly powerful meditation on intergenerational conflict and trauma… Small Worlds is an achingly tender, exquisitely rendered portrait of a truly beautiful soul.”—Literary Hub

“There’s something wide-eyed and lovely about the way Caleb Aumah Nelson writes about what it is to be young and alive to the world… This novel is about the dynamic between a father and son over three summers in London and Ghana, but it is also about music, and dancing, and those pleasures in life that are simple and yet also everything.”—Esquire, Most Anticipated Books of 2023

“Finely drawn and lyrical.”GQ

“Observed with candour and flowing clarity.”—Financial Times

“Deeply intimate and poetic.”Marie Claire (UK)

“Emotionally astute… not only touching but well formed.”New Statesman (UK)

Small Worlds resonates and reverberates with the true language of our souls. Drop the needle on it.”—Irish Times

“Both intimate and international, anchored by a timeless story of friendship and growing up.”—The Millions

“Written in exquisite prose infused with lyricism, the book examines the unexpected repercussions of life decisions and explores such themes as faith, friendship, and authenticity.”Christian Science Monitor

“A beautifully rich novel celebrating love and art and conducting an in-depth exploration of the joys and pains of Black youth.”—Booklist

“Astonishing… Nelson’s assured writing captures the pulse of a dance party, the heat of a family’s bond, and the depth of spiritual fervor to conjure a story as infectious as a new favorite song.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review

“The musicality of Nelson’s language underscores this vibrant and deeply moving tale of love, family, and coming of age. While stories of conflict between first-and second-generation immigrants are common, the cultural richness and specificity of Nelson’s narrative rises above tropes and stereotypes.”—Library Journal, starred review

“Azumah Nelson’s characters are intelligent, and his poetic, elastic, bright prose has an uplifting energy, even when he’s writing about the pain of loneliness… Azumah Nelson is something new: an unashamedly clever, spiritual, angry, loving voice in fiction, just when we need it most. Small Worlds is a book for everyone… No one could fail to feel the message, of always striving for emotional honesty and hope, that is at the heart of this uplifting symphony of a summer read.”—Times (UK)

“An affecting meditation on the migrant experience.”—Guardian (UK)

“Nelson is a rhythmic writer, using repeated motifs—variations on phrases about what we remember and what we forget, about dancing to solve problems, about the way the sun catches the back of a loved one’s neck—to make this touching novel perfectly formed too.”—New Statesman (UK)

 “Rare life ripples through this hymn to a city’s rhythms.”—Daily Mail (UK)

“What makes Azumah Nelson so seductive is the way he nails how it feels to be young, in love, in London in the summer, with possibility stretching out ahead. His territory is the after-hours funk clubs of Deptford and Peckham frequented by black people in search of music and kinship; the Caribbean cafés that stay open into the small hours; the journeys back home on the night bus. Thanks to his supple, lambent prose, it’s a landscape that dazzles.”—Telegraph (UK)

Small Worlds is a miracle of observation, of attention and attunement. Caleb Azumah Nelson writes prose that is unmatched in its musicality and sensitivity. A gorgeous, rhapsodic, wise novel.”—Katie Kitamura, author of Intimacies

“The rhythms of Small Worlds are a feature of Nelson’s quiet, particular ear and of a profound engagement with music. Nelson writes about closeness, with family, with lovers, with art, as careful, essential labour.”—Raven Leilani, New York Times bestselling author of Luster

“A novel that feels as intimate as it does expansive; Caleb Azumah Nelson has given to us a love story that goes beyond two people. Instead, there are no bounds to his exploration of exactly what the heart can feel. Beautiful, unforgettable and all-consuming.”—Candice Carty-Williams, Sunday Times bestselling author of Queenie

“In his beautiful new novel Nelson summons the sounds of Black Youth, love and discovery to the page. A celebration of the heart.”—Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, author of Friday Black

“Touching, heartfelt, and musically rich.”—Diana Evans, author of Ordinary People

Praise for Open Water:

“Azumah Nelson’s poetic brilliance, his ability to balance the general and the specific, the ambient and the granular, makes for a salient achievement… It’s Sally Rooney meets Michaela Coel meets Teju Cole…Whether he’s describing a tense police encounter or lovers intertwined, when he’s great, which is often, his descriptive powers are truly special.”—New York Times Book Review


“Gorgeous and lyrical.”—Boston Globe

“As imaginative as it is engaging.”—Los Angeles Review of Books

“Stunning . . . this emotionally rich debut tells a budding love story against backdrops of Black culture, joy, and pain.”—Entertainment Weekly

“[A] once-in-a-blue-moon kind of read, a truly remarkable debut from a gifted young wordsmith . . . The novel is at once a celebration of Black love and Black art and expression; its words vibrate and resonate at a steady, rhythmic cadence throughout the text. . . . thoroughly unforgettable.”—Buzzfeed 

“Sincere and contemplative.”—Vulture 

“A powerful and sensitive writer . . . By turns poetic and hopeful, searching and harsh, Open Water is, by all measures, the introduction of a talented new voice in literature.”—Amazon