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Bingo's Run

3.57  ·  Rating details ·  401 ratings  ·  70 reviews
Meet Bingo, the greatest drug runner in the slums of Kibera, Nairobi, and maybe the world. A teenage grifter, often mistaken for a younger boy, he faithfully serves Wolf, the drug lord of Kibera. Bingo spends his days throwing rocks at Krazi Hari, the prophet of Kibera’s garbage mound, “lipping” safari tourists of their cash, and hanging out with his best friend, Slo-Georg ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published January 7th 2014 by Spiegel & Grau (first published 2014)
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Average rating 3.57  · 
Rating details
 ·  401 ratings  ·  70 reviews

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Feb 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I think the theme of this book is how a family will always stick together and never betray each other. In this book, Bingo's family is being chased by a gang. The gang caught the father and killed him right away. But Bingo and his mom escaped. When the gang found them again, they were threatening them. Since they were poor, they couldn't give the gang anything valuable and decided to kill Bingo. But Bingo's mom decided to save Bingo, and let the gang kill her instead. This is how Bingo became an ...more
Briane Pagel
Mar 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I am a sucker for stories about, or set in, Africa. I don't think I've ever read a bad one -- from Into the Out Of by Alan Dean Foster to The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver to many, many more, if a story is set in Africa it's going to make my list to read.

Bingo's Run is the latest Africa story, and it did not disappoint. I stumbled across Bingo's Run while I was browsing around for a new (audio)book after finishing The Golem and The Jinni, having never heard of the book or the author bef
Dec 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
"But I start each day as I left the last - just me, Bingo. I carry nothing of yesterday. The past weighs you down; too much past and you stop. I am Bingo. I am a runner; the greatest runner in Kibera, Nairobi, and probably the world."

"I thought how quiet it must be under the blanket of the tarmac. There, everything is silence. But life is not that simple. Show me one road where the tarmac is smooth and even. You cannot. We are driven over so much that every road is cracked. No one knows quiet pe
Lucy Coe
Jan 15, 2014 rated it it was ok
I really liked the beginning of this novel but it went somewhere totally unexpected and much less interesting. Bingo's ability to manipulate his circumstance is often impressive and actually endearing, despite it usually involving crime. Unfortunately, it turned in to some weird American-saviour piece. I enjoyed the writing and there were some lines in there that definitely stuck ("When you plow nothing you get nothing, but I still wanted to) and helped me feel an intimate understanding with the ...more
Lisa Cook
Aug 12, 2015 rated it it was ok
Finally the last of the Alex Winners. Phew!

This book was all over the freaking place. I loved the beginning and then had so many moments of, "wait, what?!" that I found it hard to finish this novel. Bingo's Run tells the story of a teenaged drug runner in Nairobi. With a terrible past, and frankly, a terrible present, he does what he can to survive and swears excessively in the process. Then there's a drugged-out master artist? Then there's a murder? Then there's an orphanage? Then there's a whi
Mar 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: alex-award
I didn't really like this book much at the beginning. Bingo's life is centered among the most corrupt and vile people. Bingo is an orphan and a drug runner. the story unfolded, I began to love the characters in this book - The African Picasso Hunsa, The Philosopher Krazi Hari, Slo-George, Colette Steele, Charity, and Bingo, of course! As lovable as these characters are, the villains are particularly loathsome. I found myself routing for Bingo and Colette as I raced through the African u ...more
Jan 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: africa
A good read for when you're feeling cynical. Everyone is a hustler in this story of Nairobi slum life. The police chief, the orphanage priest, the art gallery owner, maybe even the hotel cleaner. Certainly Bingo himself.

I'm not usually a fan of child narrators, but I fell for Bingo and his 13 commandments and the bits and pieces of fable-like stories that he remembered his grandfather telling him.

The best part of the book has to do with a contract that Bingo has a very unusual, street-side type
Aug 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
Rapidly becoming a fan of James A. Levine! I read his first novel "The Blue Notebook" earlier in the year for this same challenge.
Bingo's run was very different, yet the same captivating spell was cast and this book had me hooked!
I found Bingo to be endearing and even though the book made no apologies for his crimes and you couldn't help but fall for this hustler in Nairobi slum life.
The American saviour turn in the story almost spoiled things, but all in all I really enjoyed this book.
Martin Hamilton
Aug 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
An unexpectedly enjoyable book with a thoroughly original main character.
Jun 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed the voice talent Peter Macoo that narrated this audiobook. Gives some insights to the struggles of poverty and how people find themselves in dire situations time and time again.
May 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Definitely read the audiobook. The narrator is PERFECT, even putting a melody to songs heard on the radio. This was the kind of book that is served very well by being read out loud.
Plot wise this book gave me whiplash! But in a fun, unpredictable way that puts a smile on your face. Parts may feel a little half baked, a little red herring, but as it progresses you see that the story has more layers and moving parts than the giant trash pile. I thought it was a really good time. Wish the ending wa
Jul 11, 2017 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
It took me a little while to get into this, probably because it is told from the point of view of a 13 year drug runner in Nairobi, so quite a different perspective than I'm used to. In the end I was very glad I read it. Lots of twists and turns, descriptions of slums and orphanages, interlaced with folktales filled with hidden wisdom.
Sep 04, 2017 rated it liked it
Deeply troubling and heartbreaking, but worth seeing it through.
Arlene Corbin
May 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I have ever read. It is about the youth in Kenya and very interesting
In this humorous and poignant tale, a cheeky young narrator gives an eye-opening account of life in Nairobi's slums, as he survives by his wits as a drug runner while striving for something more.
Jun 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
Wow. This book took me on quite a departure from my insular suburban America neighborhood! Bingo is an orphan in Nairobi surviving by being a drug runner. He lives day by day, not looking into the future more than where the next run will take him. He witnesses a drug-related murder and gets sent to an orphanage to protect him from retaliation. Ultimately he gets adopted by an American woman, an art dealer, who Bingo suspects is also a hustler like him.

I enjoyed the escape to a new land that thi
Nov 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013, netgalley
The city of Nairobi is as foreign to me as the world of the drug barons in its slum suburb of Kibera. But Levine has managed to make Bingo, the teenage drug runner at the centre of this book, and Nairobi, from its garbage strewn slums to its five star hotels, as familiar as any foreign city could be.

Bingo, also known as “Meejit” because of his short stature, is barely four feet tall and at age fifteen has the appearance of a ten year old, which helps him to fly under the radar of the local poli
May 01, 2014 rated it it was ok
I've seen favelas in Rio and huts in the worst of Soweto, but never seen the Nairobi garbage dump in Kibera where Bingo the midget lives but I feel I have seen it from James Levine's portrayal! Bingo at 14 years appears jaunty as "the best" drug runner. He slips in and out of nice hotels and office buildings with his "white" and brings money back to his boss and gets his little cut. He seems to have learned to read and hustle when younger. This is a story of who hustles whom. The drug bosses, th ...more
Donna Siebold
Apr 13, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: the-hub-2015
Bingo makes his living as a drug runner. He lives in Kenya. He is proud of his ability to run the drugs without being caught. But, one night he sees one drug dealer kill another one. The murdering drug dealer had specifically told Bingo not to deliver drugs to the dead drug dealer until after 9 p.m. Because he wanted to meet a girl Bingo went early. So, he was there when the dealer was shot. He steals some money and a gun from the scene. The first drug dealer sends him to an orphange to hide (no ...more
Feb 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book is escapism at its best, even if the place you're escaping to isn't a paradise. I felt I got a very realistic portrayal of life in a major African metropolis where everyday is a struggle to survive and the ability to outwit is perhaps the most necessary skill.

The main character of Bingo is a precocious teenager, who believes nobody can outsmart him and, due to his experience, is mistrustful of almost everyone and everything. He's not perfect, and is certainly a criminal, but he's stil
Jacy Nichols
Bingo’s Run keeps the reader guessing which characters are good and which are evil the whole time. The story centers around Bingo, a fifteen year old drug runner. While he boasts that he is the greatest runner in the world, he is also alone, and has nowhere to turn after he witnesses a murder. He is sent to an orphanage for protection, and is eventually adopted. But is he able to trust the people who set up the adoption? What about his adopted mother? There is a fair amount of mythology woven in ...more
Jan 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Although I enjoyed reading this book and was taken by the story, I did not feel completely drawn in and convinced by the plot. I was more focused on the main character and what he experienced in his world, which is Kibera, Nairobi, one of the largest urban slums in Africa. He had to go through some pretty crazy things and the author's descriptions are sometimes graphic and intense, but overall beautiful and seen from the perspective of a 15-year-old boy becoming man. It's a quick and interesting ...more
Feb 22, 2014 rated it it was ok
I read this in Nairobi and it was hard to believe I was reading about the same city. That came as no surprise, given that I was staying in a posh area and have never been to Kibera. "Bingo's Run" is a good reminder that just because you've physically been to a place doesn't mean you know it in any deep way.

I liked the book a lot in the beginning, but then it veered too far into parable and magical realism for my taste. The ending seemed to just throw all the characters together in a rather super
Mar 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
Excellent book. Gives one a view of the nitty gritties of the hard life that children in the slums of Nairobi live from day to day. Full of humor and an entertaining read despite the grim subject. Speaks to the skill of the author that he is able to sketch out a lovable character who, despite all his faults, is able to evoke sympathy from the reader. Very human also, as every character has both merits and faults.

A bit like the Other Hand by Chris Cleeve. But that book was ultimately more realis
Marisa Gonzalez
Jan 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Fictional story of a teenage midget who is a drug runner in the slums of Nairobi. After witnessing a murder he ends up in an orphanage where he discovers that life after drug running has just as many scams and tricksters as life in the slums. This book gives an insight to how some young people in impoverished countries are forced to turn to a life of crime and live under the control of ruthless drug dealers just to have the basic necessities of life. I enjoyed this book but it does take a mystic ...more
Jul 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
I slapped myself upside the head over this book. We ought to hate everyone of the characters including the protagonist, Bingo. Although he is a thief, a drug runner, and sexually promiscuous, he is the only character who is capable of caring about other people. I know that sounds like an awful premise for a book but Bingo is smart, funny, and plans to live for awhile in a society where life is cheap. Interlaced with the story of Bingo are stories of the Trickster. And we realize that Bingo is th ...more
Dec 27, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arcs, laughs, netgalley
This was the last book I read in 2013, and it was a great way to end off my literary year!

Bingo’s life is no laughing matter. It’s horrifying and terrible and beyond belief. Yet, it is real. However, Bingo’s matter-of-fact narration of the horrors and experiences of his daily existence somehow makes for a constant chuckle (sometimes uncomfortable).

Sometimes insightful Catcher in the Rye set in Kiberia, sometimes quirky modern comedy of errors, this book was un-put-down-able.
Aug 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book was frustrating to read in some places, but even with the question mark of an ending, the message throughout stayed consistent: things are not always what they seem, and every creature on earth is somehow struggling to survive. This book was unlike anything I have read before, sometimes strange, sometimes disturbing, but just so good. Will definitely pick up Levine's first book, too.
Sep 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
I enjoyed this book immensely and the author is masterful in presenting a story from the pov of a young African who is intelligent but not well educated. We may not agree with the narrator's perceptions, we may not like them, but they belong to him and he relays them with pride. I did not want to put this story down - though a few sections seemed rushed and less well plotted toward the end. a delightful story.
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Born and educated in England, James A. Levine is a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic who has worked with impoverished children in the United States and internationally for more than thirty years. He has won more than fifty major awards in science, consulted to numerous governments, and lectures to humanitarian groups around the world. He is the author of the novel The Blue Notebook.

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