The House of Shells by Efua Traoré

House of Shells

“Shells are houses, you know. They are abandoned homes.”

“You cannot run from that which is part of you. You cannot run from yourself.”

After a long reading slump (which has nothing to do with the book but my recent schedules), I have been able to finish The House of Shells by Efua Traore finally, and I suddenly feel refreshed enough to jump on my next book.

The House of Shells is a captivating and fresh interpretation of the Yoruba myths surrounding Abikus. Drawing from the Yoruba abiku myth, which portrays Abikus as spirits of children who experience repeated deaths and rebirths in the mortal world, this young adult fiction takes readers on a rollercoaster ride.

With its bold narrative, The House of Shells delves into the depths of this folklore, offering readers a unique and enthralling experience.

Short Chapters, Language Use & Plot

Traore’s masterful storytelling ensures a seamless flow between each chapter, effortlessly guiding the reader from one scene to the next. The transitions between events are executed with precision, creating a natural progression that propels the reader forward, eager to uncover what comes next.

The author’s use of simple and concise sentences enhances the readability of the book. With short chapters, readers are able to easily navigate through the story, keeping them engaged from beginning to end. The straightforward language employed allows readers of all ages to effortlessly immerse themselves in the narrative, making it accessible to a wide audience.

Character Development

Each of the book’s characters is expertly developed, with their distinct personalities and objectives. The story’s portrayal of their interactions and personal development is incredibly realistic, making it simple for readers to empathize with the characters. Traore has a wonderful gift for developing characters that young adult readers can relate to on a deep level. The main characters deal with a variety of obstacles, have to make tough choices, and manage complex relationships in a way that feels totally honest and realistic. Throughout the whole novel, readers are readily taken into the problems, feelings, and individual journeys of the characters.

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Let’s delve into the captivating world of the characters:


As the main character, Kuki’s life takes an astonishing turn when she encounters a mysterious and intriguing new friend named Enilo. This encounter serves as a pivotal moment in Kuki’s life, leading to unforeseen transformations and revelations.

Enilo (the one who went away)

Enilo emerges as an enigmatic figure draped in an aura of mystery. With her visually striking appearance and intriguing actions, she becomes a source of fascination for both Kuki and readers.

Enilo’s actions and behavior only deepen the mystique surrounding her. Frequently disappearing for extended periods or appearing in unexpected places, she exudes an air of secrecy that fuels the mystery in the book. 

Throughout the book, Traore skillfully explores the intricate push and pull dynamics between Kuki and Enilo as they navigate their individual desires for belonging and their shared quest for life.


Oh, Moji, how I despised her (well, not entirely). However, what makes her story compelling is the human touch added by the author. Despite her role as a bully, Moji is not simply a one-dimensional character. Traore gradually reveals fragments of her backstory throughout the book, allowing readers to empathize and feel compassion for her. And her growth is evident at the end of the book.

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The House of Shells as a Book of Lessons

The House of Shells masterfully navigates the complex realm of morality, offering readers valuable insights into the human condition. Through Kuki’s moral compass, the novel delicately imparts timeless lessons about the intricacies of right and wrong, reminding us that humans are flawed beings who can only strive for improvement.

This poignant narrative serves as a gentle reminder that morality is not black and white; it exists in shades of grey. The story weaves together the strengths and weaknesses of its characters, emphasizing the significance of self-awareness, personal growth, and the constant pursuit of betterment. Even when we stumble, this tale teaches us that redemption is always within our reach.

Also, one of the novel’s most compelling aspects is its exploration of the devastating impact of bullying. Traore fearlessly confronts this issue head-on, shedding light on the profound emotional and psychological harm it inflicts on both victims and perpetrators alike. Through her vivid portrayals, she exposes the intricate power dynamics, manipulations, and emotional misery that often permeate these destructive relationships. By doing so, Traore provides readers with a multifaceted understanding of bullying and the lasting scars it can leave behind.

The House of Shell as a Character

In the book, the eponymous house takes on a captivating character of its own, becoming an enigmatic entity that mesmerizes both the readers and the protagonist, Kuki. Throughout the narrative, the house assumes a central role, intricately woven into the very fabric of the story.

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The House of Shells transcends being a mere physical structure; it possesses a distinct personality and presence that profoundly influences the events and characters within the book. It almost seems to possess a life force of its own, which is later proven to have a tree that serves as a doorway to the abiku world.

Beyond its tangible existence, it becomes a haven, a sanctuary for both Enilo and, at certain moments, Kuki when she seeks solace and escapes. By skillfully personifying the house and imbuing it with symbolic meaning, the author masterfully creates a multi-dimensional narrative that captivates readers and deepens their understanding of the story’s themes.

Element of Family

The element of the family plays a significant role in shaping the experiences and growth of the main character, Kuki. The presence of Dr D, Kuki’s mother, and her aunt adds layers of complexity to the narrative, showcasing the multifaceted nature of familial relationships.

Kuki’s aunt, although sometimes misguided, genuinely cares for her niece’s well-being. Despite her flawed approach, her heart is in the right place. She is later proven to be right to insist on her use of charms. 

The interactions between Kuki and her family members evoke a range of emotions, resonating with readers who can relate to the intricacies of family relationships. The moments of love, frustration, and growth create a realistic portrayal of the joys and challenges inherent in familial bonds.


In the end, this novel proved to be a worthwhile read, leaving me eager to delve into more books by this author.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Boakye D. Alpha

I am Alpha. 🤓 Writer, Filmmaker, creative entrepreneur, book connoisseur, an undercover nerd etc. I am a Ghanaian currently in Lagos with Multichoice Talent Factory✌️🏿 Follow my Bookstagram: For my writing: And where I am mostly myself: I would love a follow. I will follow back. 😉

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