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The Atlas of Forgotten Places

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  491 ratings  ·  141 reviews
With the empathy of Little Bee and the political intrigue of Blood Diamond, a gripping story of two women from different worlds who become inextricably bound in a quest to save their loved ones.

The Atlas of Forgotten Places is that rare novel that delivers an exquisite portrait of family and love within a breathlessly, thrilling narrative.

After a long career as an aid work
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published July 11th 2017 by Thomas Dunne Books
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Average rating 4.05  · 
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Jul 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley, uganda

The Atlas of Forgotten Places was one of the rare books that I read without previously hearing anything about it or the author. I went in blind, guided only by the beautiful cover and the interesting blurb. I am delighted to have given this one a chance.

The novel is told in 3rd person from the point of view of two women: Sabine, former aid worker who spent 15 years in African countries and now returned to her native Germany and Rose, a former child soldier in the Uganda LRA rebel ar
Diane S ☔
Jul 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Sabine had been an aid worker in various parts of Africa for over fourteen years, but now in her forties she is working in her native Germany. Her niece Lily, following in her footsteps has been working in Uganda, at a center that helps victims that had been taken by Joseph Kony, trying to help them reintegrate into life out of captivity. When she goes missing in Uganda, Sabine returns to try to retrace her nieces footsteps, and bring her home.

With two people she meets in Uganda we follow Sabine
Jul 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
The Atlas of Forgotten Places is a tough but worthy read. It takes place primarily in contemporary Uganda and the Republic of Congo. Sabine, who lives in Germany, learns that her niece Lilly has gone missing in Uganda. Sabine herself had spent many years doing relief work in Uganda and so she goes there to try to find her niece. The story is told from Sabine's point of view and from Rose's point of view. Rose is native to Uganda and has a sad painful history. Rose and Sabine's stories eventually ...more
Oct 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I walked into this book with trepidation: a white woman writing about aid work in Uganda has all the trappings of a potentially condescending, 'well meaning' novel tinged with paternalistic racist overtones. Alternatively it could easily have also taken on a self-flaggelatory flavor in its attempt to make up for the imperialistic ethos of aid-work. But, The Atlas of Forgotten Places turned out instead to strike a seemingly impossible, delicate balance between these two extremes.

Williams offers
Julie Christine
UPDATE: My full review is at Washington Independent Review of Books

There aren't enough stars to express how much I loved this book. Extraordinary. Review to come.
Jul 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Williams brings to vivid life the Ugandan civil war through the voices of Sabine, a former aid worker who returns to Uganda to search for her missing niece, and Rose, a young Ugandan woman who has a former connection to the rebels. There are no winners in war, only those that have lost & those that have lost more. Novels like this are important because they not only entertain, but they educate in a way that brings humanity and understanding to these conflicts. The only criticism I have is that t ...more
Jennifer Blankfein
Aug 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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Don’t let this exceptional new novel fall under the radar! Based on war-torn Africa and the innocent people caught in the middle, the stunning debut, The Atlas of Forgotten Places by Jenny D. Williams takes us to Uganda where a young girl, Lily, goes missing. The authorities are hard to come by and disorganized, so her aunt, Sabine, a former aid worker, travels from Germany to the village where she was last seen,
Aug 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
A terrific and compelling novel set against the war and unrest in Uganda. Williams does and excellent job holding the tension and pace throughout the entire book, making me want to turn each page. Even though the language is pretty straightforward, I still felt a great sense of place.

I especially enjoyed the slow unveiling of the character's background stories even while the action of the plot drove relentlessly forwarded. Both Rose and Sabine are complicated, but likable protagonists.

Sure, I c
May 16, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgallery-books
3.5 stars
Have read this through the courtesy of NetGallery

This tale of oppression, grief, and loss has as its background the war that took place in northern Uganda. The fictional part of this novel portrays the loss felt by an aunt, a step father, and a young woman who had previously been captured by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in Uganda. This was has been going on since the 1980's.

The women of this story come from two vastly different environments. Sabine, a former aid worker living in Ge
mindful.librarian ☀️
In striking contrast, THE ATLAS OF FORGOTTEN PLACES, manages to be incredibly beautiful while set against one of the most horrifying backdrops imaginable. This is the second book I have read in the past month about the Ugandan Civil War and Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army (the first being the YA novel SOLDIER BOY by Keely Hutton), and I just can not stop thinking about how much most of us in the US do not, but should, know about the horrors of this conflict.

ATLAS brings us a small glimpse
Apr 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This absolutely captivating story is at once a suspense-filled search for a missing girl, a heartbreaking tale about life as overshadowed by the activities of the Lord's Resistance Army, and a meditation on finding the courage to do the right thing, even when that means putting your own self in danger. Told through dual perspectives -- that of a German woman who returns to East Africa, where she spent 18 years working, to search for her missing American niece; and that of a young Ugandan woman w ...more
Lisa Duffy
May 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This suspenseful debut is impossible to put down. Interweaving the voices of Sabine, a former aid worker who returns to Uganda to search for her missing niece, and Rose, a young Ugandan woman with a painful past, Jenny D. Williams masterfully combines a thrilling mystery with brilliant character portrayal and stunning authoritative background detail. Powerful, vivid and emotionally complex, The Atlas of Forgotten Places is a must read.
Sandi Ward
Jun 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a fascinating and engrossing novel about human compassion in the face of war and unrest.

A German woman named Sabine returns to Africa after years away to try and locate her niece, who has disappeared while volunteering. She is joined in her search by Rose, a native Ugandan trying to find her partner Ocen, who they determine was helping Sabine’s niece. They are thwarted by political events; it's a story about rebellion, displaced persons, violence, kidnapping—ultimately, the horrors of w
Stacey A.  Prose and Palate
Jul 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017-books
“Ocen is a part of this too. We haven’t forgotten him. It’s just easier to spur people to action when it’s an American life at stake.” The injustice of this truth should have outraged her. Tens of thousands of abducted Acholi children, tens of thousands more slaughtered at the rebels’ hands; how many dead and dying in IDP camps? How many dead and dying in Faradje, in yesterday’s bus attack? Ah, but should a mono girl be among them! Then we may intervene; then we may act. She felt nothing. She’d ...more
Elise Hooper
Apr 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Stunning, heartrending, and hopeful, this triller plunged me into Uganda and the lives of Sabine, a former aid worker from Germany, and Rose, a Ugandan with a mysterious past. These two very different women develop a complicated partnership in their quest to find their missing loved ones. With beautiful prose and relentless pacing, Jenny D. Williams has created a story that has stuck with me long since finishing it.
Devin Murphy
May 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The Atlas of Forgotten Places is a relentless heart-punch of a book! I was pulled in by this stunning story from the start and switching back and forth between the two main characters, Sabine, an ex-aide worker, and Rose, a Ugandan woman made this hard to put down. Both women are complex, mysterious, and fully rendered in such a way that I feel they will both haunt me for a long time. They become guides to the menacing and lovely country of Uganda which is brilliantly portrayed in these pages, b ...more
Jun 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Every once in a while, along comes a novel that won't leave you, that keeps you up at night contemplating important questions.Williams has constructed a novel that fits beautifully into this category. Based on real and imagined events set in the DNC and Uganda, this novel follows Sabine, a burned out aid worker who currently works in an animal shelter in Germany, Rose, a one armed Ugandan woman who was formerly abducted by the Lord's Resistance Army, and Lily, a young girl doing volunteer work i ...more
Jan 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Absolutely stunning. Fans of Bianca Marais’ Hum If You Don’t Know the Words or Lesley Arimah’s What it Means When a Man Falls from the Sky will like this. Written with the complexities of a Karin Slaughter mystery and the human agony of MR Carey’s Girl with All the Gifts— Williams follows Sabine, a German aid worker turned pet shelter employee, whose American niece Lily, daughter of Sabine’s deceased sister Hannah, has gone missing during her first aid mission in Uganda. Rose, a shattered soul w ...more
Kelly Ford
May 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The Atlas of Forgotten Places hooked me from start to finish.

Williams is such a beautiful, masterful writer at both the sentence and story level. I settled in and took this one slow so I could relish her rich prose and descriptions, which rendered Rose, Sabine, and Uganda fully alive. But there was nothing languid about the pace as these two women head out into dangerous territory in search of their loved ones, who have gone missing. My favorite books spark my curiosity and send me down the int
Kathleen Flynn
Jul 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Usually I am skeptical of publisher's overheated descriptions of novels, but "an exquisite portrait of family and love within a breathlessly thrilling narrative" is a remarkably accurate description of THE ATLAS OF FORGOTTEN PLACES. It's about a search for lost loved ones in a setting that is beautiful and dangerous and (at least to me) strange, while the real quest, what makes it so unforgettable, is the search for love and meaning. There are so many places this could have verged off into the m ...more
Literary Chic
Jun 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: giveaways
A Goodreads Giveaway and a beautiful novel about redemption and atonement. Each storyline was tied up nicely. (I say this because a familial storyline seemed to be way off in left field until the last few chapters.) Apparently this book is getting kudos from NPR and other outlets. I think the accolades are well deserved. I probably wouldn't have picked it up without the giveaway, but I'll certainly be touting it to my fiction-loving friends.
Kate Brandes
Jun 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Jenny Williams's debut novel, The Atlas of Forgotten Places, is a thrilling, complex read. She develops a deep sense of place and wonderful characters for the reader. Williams has written this vivid dual narrative, with keen emotional intelligence. This novel is not to be missed.
Sarah Menkedick
Apr 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I could not put this book down. I work and am also the mother of a toddler, so I have very little time to read, and what time I do have is precious. The fact that I looked so forward to this book at the end of a long day is a testament to its beauty and also to the masterful, gripping plot at its heart. I felt so invested in the characters and also in the moral issues that drive the story–it is rare to read a novel that addresses these big, difficult, heartbreaking questions and this one does so ...more
Adriana Arrington
Jun 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An exceptional novel. Williams masterfully weaves a story that resonates on several different levels. At face value, the novel is about the quest that two women undertake to find their missing loved ones. At a deeper level, it's about how the best, but misplaced, intentions can lead to disaster. This theme carries throughout the novel at both a micro level (personal decisions) and macro level (modern-day Western policy in Africa).

I'll think about this novel for awhile. Williams doesn't leave the
Jul 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved this book. A book filled with family, love, friendship, action and suspense set in Africa during the revolutionary war in Uganda and the Congo.

Sabine, who has retired from a long career of aid work to Germany, discovers that her niece, Lily, who went to Uganda to follow in her aunt's footsteps, is missing. Lily was scheduled to come home for the holidays, however, she was not on the plane when it landed. Sabine knows that the only way she is going to find her niece is to go to
May 18, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: race
So I feel like people liked this because it was war and Africa and it is PC to like it. I didn't really feel like it was real or authentic. Everything was way too convenient with Christophe, Sabine and Rose's treck to find Lily and Ocen, especially when they first crossed the border and the nice American who runs the gold mine took them in. The whole bus attack on the way to the National Park and their escape in the jungle felt like Romancing the Stone. And the end with everyone in the jungle at ...more
Megan Tristao
Aug 05, 2017 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Megan by: Library Journal
2.5 stars. Several people recommended this book to me, but I just didn't love it. I thought it was fine.
Karen KK
I received this ARC from in exchange for a review.

I couldn't get into the story. Abandoned at 20%.
No Rating, dnf.
Renee Rutledge
Jul 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Jenny Williams emerges as a gifted storyteller with her breathtaking debut. As the stories of Sabine, a former aid worker, and Rose, a wounded abductee returned to her native village in Uganda, intersect in search of the missing, we come to understand the depth of their afflictions, which are as haunting as the war-torn landscape that Williams paints with sensitivity and skill. Her characters are multidimensional, as we see in the soldiers who would capture children but were themselves once capt ...more
Jul 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: africa
A page turner. Also a really interesting and valuable exploration of international aid work and how the Western world's intervention in Africa (in this case, Uganda), has often hurt more than it has helped (and of course, that's even aside from colonialism's impact on Africa).
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JENNY D. WILLIAMS has lived in the U.S., Uganda, and Germany. She holds an MFA from Brooklyn College and a BA from UC Berkeley. Her award-winning fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and illustrations have been published in The Sun Magazine, Vela, and Ethical Traveler, as well as several anthologies. A former Teachers & Writers Collaborative fellow and recipient of an Elizabeth George Foundation grant for ...more

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