Review: Nightcrawling by Leila Mottley

Longlisted for the 2022 Booker Prize!  Leila Mottley | The Booker Prizes

About this book

Blurb via Goodreads

“Kiara and her brother, Marcus, are scraping by in an East Oakland apartment complex optimistically called the Regal-Hi. Both have dropped out of high school, their family fractured by death and prison. But while Marcus clings to his dream of rap stardom, Kiara hunts for work to pay their rent–which has more than doubled–and to keep the nine-year-old boy next door, abandoned by his mother, safe and fed.

One night, what begins as a drunken misunderstanding with a stranger turn into the job Kiara never imagined wanting but now desperately needs: nightcrawling. Her world breaks open even further when her name surfaces in an investigation that exposes her as a key witness in a massive scandal within the Oakland Police Department.”

My thoughts

I am trying to keep this as spoiler-free as possible.

Nightcrawling is not an easy read and comes with numerous trigger warnings (which I didn’t realise at the time I started reading it). I don’t regret picking up this book at all though. Several days after finishing it, I was still left deeply emotional and heartbroken. Given that Leila Mottley was only seventeen when she started writing this (at the time this novel was published she was nineteen), her depth of insight and level of poetic prose is simply astounding.

“She is the bottom of the ocean, where all the magic hides beneath too many layers of dark and water and salt.”

• “The idea of drowning doesn’t bother me, though, since we’re made of water anyway. It’s kind of like your body overflowing with itself.”

• “Silence starves us, chile. Feed yoself.”

• “… am still waiting to be hit by some universe-halting love that will turn me inside out and remove all the rotting parts of me.”

Nightcrawling gives us a harrowing and frustrating insight into the lives of the marginalised, how it feels to just have nowhere to go, and having no one to save you.

Leila says in the afterword: “Like many black girls, I was often told growing up to tend to and shield my brother, my dad, the black men around me: their safety, their bodies, their dreams. In this, I learned that my own safety, body, and dreams were secondary, that there was no one and nothing that could or would protect me.”

It is a gritty, dark, expressive, and compelling read, and will blast your eyes and your mind wide open.

RRR (Roelia Reads Rating) – 5 stars

Thank you to Jonathan Ball Publishers for the review copy.

About the author:  Leila Mottley

Reading guide for Nightcrawling by Leila Mottley (bookbrowse.com)