Jaime's Reviews > The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears

The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears by Dinaw Mengestu
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's review
Feb 23, 2009

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bookshelves: 2009, general_fiction
Read in February, 2009

“The beautiful things that heaven bears” is a line from a passage in Dante’s Inferno, in which Dante is emerging from hell. According to one of the characters in the book, “no one can understand that line like an African because that is what we lived through. Hell every day with only glimpses of heaven in between.” The passage is definitely a metaphor for Sepha’s story, whose existence seems to be just one long, endless trudge through life. I enjoy books like this that give me a glimpse of life in a different culture than my own, but I think that in some ways this book is a little too subtle. For example, when the “series of racial incidents disturbs the community”, I wouldn’t have known they were racial incidents if the back of the book hadn’t said so. They could just as easily been class-based as race-based. Also, the pacing of the story was difficult for me to follow. The story jumps back and forth in time, and once in a while I would lose track of where I was in the timeline. I think I would have enjoyed learning more about the culture than just about Sepha. Overall, this was a well-written novel, but it left me wanting more — or maybe, just something different.

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