The House of Shells by Efua Traore

House of Shells


Kuki refuses to believe in the curse of the Abiku. Her destiny is not to die young! Her biggest problem right now is moving house and fitting in at her new school.

One evening while exploring, Kuki spies a driveway lined with giant palm trees. It leads to an abandoned beach house of shadows and scattered sea shells. And in the fading light, she meets a girl called Enilo.

They become friends – the best of friends…until Kuki makes a terrifying discovery


This is my second Efua Traore book, and I am not disappointed. If anything, in my opinion, I liked this one better than the first. I read this in one sitting because I was engrossed in the story.

Like her previous book, Efua weaves folktales with modern life. In this case, it is the folktale of the Abiku/Ogbanje.

An abiku is a child with one leg in the spirit world and one in the human world. The spirit world’s pull is often strong, so the child leaves the physical world through death. This brings pain to the parents, especially the mother, because of the pain of childbirth. To make an abiku stay, there is a ceremony that has to be done. This includes finding the child’s treasure and binding it to the physical world so they would not leave again. When this is done, the child is marked and often given a name indicating that they came to stay.

Tales from my grandma

Typically an Abiku is seen as an evil spirit because of the pain it causes the family; however, in this story, the author separates the Abiku from the human. She shows the similarities and differences between the physical and spiritual beings and how they influence each other, this time in a positive light rather than negative.

I liked the character growth of Kuki. In the beginning, we see a girl struggling to fit into school and home, but as she encounters Enilo, she grows brave and starts coming out of her shell.

Initially, her aunt irked me because she reminded me of those meddling family members you would watch on TV. However, towards the end, you would understand why she was meddling; albeit annoying as it was, she actually cared for her niece.

I get that Kuki was drawn to this house, although while reading it, I kept screaming in my head, telling this child to go back because scary things would happen! The world of the House of Shells is eerily beautiful. It’s an abandoned house, and of course, it has a giant haunted tree to complete the setting.

As usual, I have nothing but praise for Efua’s writing. It’s easy to read, and you’re sure to stay glued to the story. It’s always fun to read because I am expecting adventure.

I recommend it to people of all ages.

Favourite Quote

‘In your world, Kuki, there is warmth, and there is joy. And do you know where it all comes from?’ Kuki shook her head. ‘From your hearts. Hearts filled with crumbs of kindness, crumbs of goodness. But our world is not perfect, either,’ Kuki said, trying to make her feel better. ‘There is also a lot of hate and wickedness here. Yes, but yet the good shines through. In every human heart, there are crumbs of goodness, so at least there is a chance of kindness. Humans just need reminders once in a while, and most of the time, the good works its way through.


I hope you enjoyed this review. It will be published in Nigeria by Masobe Books sometime in October.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.


My name is Chinelo. I love reading sci-fi, fantasy, and romance. I write reviews and recommend books also on my blog and Instagram ( and @thebookedunicorn).

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