Author: Imbolo Mbue
Genre: Literary Fiction
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: March 9, 2021
Book Description: 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.
Rating: 3 Stars
Review: I was so excited to get an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book because I just loved Mbue’s debut novel Behold the Dreamers, however, this a very different novel than what I expected this to be.
Taking place in the fictional African village of Kosawa, this is the story of a huge oil company coming in and corrupting a simple farming community. This was simple a place of families raising their children in their own piece of the world.
As you can expect, things go haywire as the oil company sets up shop. Polluted drinking water, their lands become infertile, men go missing due to much corruption. After their ruin, they rise up to start a revolution and take back what is theirs.
This is told from multiple narrator’s, the family of Thula who is the main character throughout the book and the children of this community. While this story did not grab me like her debut, this a still a very good sophomore novel. The author wrote us a gut-wrenching story about dictators and big corporations and how they can take a somewhat thriving village and ruin it for profit.
Thank you NetGalley and Random House for an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.