The House of Rust is an enchanting novel about a Hadrami girl in Mombasa. When her fisherman father goes missing, Aisha takes to the sea on a magical boat made of a skeleton to rescue him. She is guided by a talking scholar’s cat (and soon crows, goats, and other animals all have their say, too). On this journey Aisha meets three terrifying sea monsters. After she survives a final confrontation with Baba wa Papa, the father of all sharks, she rescues her own father, and hopes that life will return to normal. But at home, things only grow stranger.
Caught between her grandmother’s wish to safeguard her happiness with marriage and her own desire for adventure, Aisha is pushed toward a match with a sweet local boy that she doesn’t want. But before she can fight her way to independence—as embodied in the book by the mirage-like House of Rust—she must first gain experience and skills to vanquish Almassi, the imprisoned snake-demon ruler of Mombasa. Khadija Abdalla Bajaber’s debut is a magical realist coming-of-age tale told through the lens of the Swahili and diasporic Hadrami culture in Mombasa, Kenya. Richly descriptive and written with an imaginative hand and sharp eye for unusual detail, The House of Rust is a memorable novel by a thrilling new voice.