March 11, 2021

How Beautiful We Were

How Beautiful We Were

by Imbolo Mbue

Published date: March 11, 2021
by Canongate

Rating: 3 Stars ⭐⭐⭐

Genre: General Fiction (Adult

Set in the fictional African village of Kosawa, How Beautiful We Were tells the story of a people living in fear amidst environmental degradation wrought by an American oil company. Pipeline spills have rendered farmlands infertile. Children are dying from drinking toxic water. Promises of clean-up and financial reparations to the villagers are made – and ignored. The country’s government, led by a brazen dictator, exists to serve its own interest only. Left with few choices, the people of Kosawa decide to fight back. But their fight will come at a steep price, one which generation after generation will have to pay.

Told through the perspective of a generation of children and the family of a girl named Thula, How Beautiful We Were is a masterful exploration of what happens when the reckless drive for profit, coupled with the ghost of colonialism, comes up against one community’s determination to hold onto its ancestral land and a young woman’s willingness to sacrifice everything for the sake of her people’s freedom.

My Thoughts:

Mbue’s debut novel Behold the Dreamers was brilliant and one of my favorites. I was anticipating this new book and was thrilled to receive an advanced copy. While it’s written just as beautifully as Dreamers, I struggled to connect with the characters or the narrative. The different perspectives were a challenge, while the time shifting throughout was equally unsettling. Because the same story might be told from the POV of multiple characters, the book is very long and often felt like it was dragging. Mbue’s writing, however, is beautiful and evocative. She is a gifted writer but I think this work needed some editing.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing an advance copy for review purposes.

General Fiction (Adult) 0 Replies to “How Beautiful We Were”