How Beautiful We Were

How Beautiful We Were

A Novel

eBook - 2021
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From the celebrated author of the New York Times bestseller Behold the Dreamers comes a sweeping, wrenching story about the collision of a small African village and an American oil company. "A novel with the richness and power of a great contemporary fable, and a heroine for our time."—Sigrid Nunez, author of The Friend , winner of the National Book Award We should have known the end was near. So begins Imbolo Mbue's powerful second novel, How Beautiful We Were . Set in the fictional African village of Kosawa, it tells of a people living in fear amid environmental degradation wrought by an American oil company. Pipeline spills have rendered farmlands infertile. Children are dying from drinking toxic water. Promises of cleanup and financial reparations to the villagers are made—and ignored. The country's government, led by a brazen dictator, exists to serve its own interests. Left with few choices, the people of Kosawa decide to fight back. Their struggle will last for decades and come at a steep price. Told from the perspective of a generation of children and the family of a girl named Thula who grows up to become a revolutionary, 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 on to its ancestral land and a young woman's willingness to sacrifice everything for the sake of her people's freedom.
Publisher: [S.I.] : Random House Publishing Group, 2021.
ISBN: 9780593132432
Branch Call Number: Overdrive
Additional Contributors: OverDrive, Inc


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Mar 22, 2021

This novel is the axle of my reading wheelhouse: environmental degradation, corrupt geopolitics, emotionally intelligent and morally complex characters, alternating points of view, healthy section breaks. The writing was so beautiful that I read several chapters aloud to myself. Brava, Imbolo Mbue.

Mar 09, 2021

Although challenging the second novel from PEN/Faulkner Award winner, Imobolo Mbue tells the story of an African village who agreed to allowing a corrupt American oil company drill, without regulation on their land. After the death of several children, the village madman, in a moment of clear thinking takes the company man captive. The story does not end here. A young girl, Thula, who witnessed what happened is offered and chance to study in the US. She writes back to friends encouraging them to fight what has happened to them. She also makes the connection of what is happening in US towns struggling with poverty. Mbue’s ability to deeply carve out the personalities of the various voices telling the story is stunning. She has given a strong voice to villagers trying to save themselves, their heritage and their village.

Michael Colford Oct 31, 2020

Imbolo Mbue follows up her magnificent debut, Behold the Dreamers with a hard-hitting tale of corporate destruction and governmental greed from the perspective of the community in a small African Village whose way of life faces destruction. When an American corporation begins drilling for oil under the fictional village of Kosawa, the effects are felt for generations to come. Crops shrivel, water becomes tainted, and children begin to die. Over the course of three generations, various attempts are made to stop the destruction of their way of life, from pleading with the corporate interests, to violence, to radical organizing, uncovering layers of opposition.

Mbue follows one family in particular, which centers around Thula, a young woman who gains the incredible educational opportunity to go to college in New York, where she encounters others like herself, willing to take on the man in the hopes for a better future. She gives up everything for her community, while it hangs on by a thread back home, her cohort of age-mates struggling between subterfuge and out and out revolution to repay the violence and injustice suffered through the years.

With a keen eye and heart examining responses from villagers across educational and generational lines, Mbue uses an impartial eye, even while breaking our hearts for this communities suffering. Her writing is powerful and pulls no punches as the reader is taken on a harrowing journey as a tiny village tries to overcome insurmountable odds for a better life.


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