Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “How Beautiful We Were” as Want to Read:
How Beautiful We Were
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

How Beautiful We Were

by
3.70  ·  Rating details ·  265 ratings  ·  137 reviews
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 America oil company.

"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 the story of a peo
...more
Hardcover, 384 pages
Expected publication: March 9th 2021 by Random House
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about How Beautiful We Were, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about How Beautiful We Were

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.70  · 
Rating details
 ·  265 ratings  ·  137 reviews


More filters
 | 
Sort order
Start your review of How Beautiful We Were
Liz
Feb 09, 2021 rated it liked it
I was a big fan of Behold The Dreamers, so I was anxious to read Mbue’s sophomore effort. This time, the story takes place in a fictional African village that has been ravished by environmental degradation brought on by an American oil company. It’s the 1980s and both the company and the government are doing nothing to fix the problem. But in the midst of a meeting with the company representatives, someone finally takes action.
We hear from an assortment of characters, all villagers. Mbue does a
...more
Emer (A Little Haze)
I was incredibly impressed by Imbolo Mbue’s debut novel Behold the Dreamers when I read it in 2017 and knew that this was an author whose work I would want to return to in the future.

In this second novel from Mbue we are given the story of a fictional African village named Kosawa where Pexton, an American Oil company, has come in to exploit the land... at first this company promised success and prosperity to the village... and of course paid the government well... but it soon emerged that all th
...more
Rose
Jan 18, 2021 rated it liked it
I just read How Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Mbue

This is a story about a small African village and an American oil company. It is narrated by a generation of children, and family members of a daughter named Thula.

Children in the small village are dying, oil spills are contaminating their drinking water.

It is beautifully written and is quite a sad situation. I did enjoy the book, and writing, however I also found it exhausting to read at the same time. For me, the variety of narrators made it a b
...more
lark benobi
There are alternating narrative voices employed in this novel, and they all are imbued with a quality of narrative style that I would call "folk-elegiac," a technique where the author wants to capture the rhythms of oral storytelling, as well as the bonds of traditional village life, while also trying to make the language itself beautiful and literary.

But, Mama, the soldiers have guns," I say, struggling not to cry. Papa told me, before he left, never to cry unless I must. "How will machetes he
...more
Antonella
Feb 07, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary-fiction, arc
A poignant story that is a perfect social commentary on exploitation in Africa.

This book has an interesting premise and that is what drew me to it.
In a fictional African village, an American oil company causes an environmental crisis, the water and land are contained. People are dying and a corrupt dictator doesn't care about his people.

I enjoyed lyrical writing. There is so much beautiful wording and that shows me how talented this author is. However, multiple points of view dragged the stor
...more
Nancy
May 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
One angry woman did everything, and she failed.~from How Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Mbue

I read Imbolo Mbue's first novel Behold the Dreamers as a galley and for book club. I jumped at the chance to read her second novel, How Beautiful We Were.

Was money so important that they would sell children to strangers seeking oil?~from How Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Mbue

The novel is about an African village struggling for environmental justice, powerless, caught between an American oil company and a cor
...more
Naori
Apr 18, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: african-lit
3.5 Review to ensue...
kyra
Feb 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Incredibly beautiful. I could not put this down. A great contemporary with characters that will be remembered.


I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.
Lisa of Troy
Feb 28, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Watch my video review here including the true story behind this book: https://youtu.be/Yva_hnrdFRk

Wow! If you read one book this year, this is it. Here is hoping that this book starts a movement.
How Beautiful We Were focuses on a village in Africa where an American oil has arrived and polluted the groundwater and air in the process. This book does what a picture cannot – it tells the feelings of what it is like to live without clean water. We meet a young girl named Thula, and the book follows h
...more
Book
Feb 06, 2021 rated it did not like it
Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC. Listen to the full review here: https://bookclubbed.buzzsprout.com/15...

This is not a book, but a fable. The problem with fables is that they are supposed to be short, punchy stories. How Beautiful We Were takes a fables’ worth of material and stretches it into an entire book, stretches it so thin that you can see the light breaking through it. Although the light, in this case, is the sweet relief of finishing this burdensome tale.

The story is primarily told i
...more
Lisa
Mar 13, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This novel is set in the fictional African Village of Kosawa, and tells of villagers living in fear due to the environmental degradation and loss of life caused by a greedy American oil company. The people decide to take a stand for justice, which has disastrous results.

The story is told from the perspective of a generation of family and centers around a girl named Thula, who grows up to become a revolutionary.

The novel had a strong premise. I enjoyed the first 15%, then It fizzled out. The aut
...more
Sian (sianslibrary)
Jul 31, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I read Imbolo Mbue’s first novel, Behold The Dreamers, earlier this year and absolutely loved her writing and storytelling - it was easily a five star read. So when I heard her second novel was open to reviews, I jumped at the chance to dive into yet another marvellous feat of storytelling.

How Beautiful We Were did not disappoint - the writing is beautiful and the story is brutally honest and breathtaking. The hard truths of capitalism and its consequences on an impoverished African village are
...more
Emily
Jul 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
***Goodreads Giveaway Win***

This book had all the trappings of a book I'd normally steer away from; climate fiction, didacticism, politics, feminism. And yet, I loved it anyway. The storytelling was compelling; the voices were inventive and there was an ever so slight absurdity which I eat up every time. There so much to say about the book both plot-wise and theme-wise that I can't begin to lay them out with any articulation. The point of this review is to say, you should read it :-).

...more
Laurie
May 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
I never thought I would be entertained reading about a fiction African village and an American oil company! I was mesmerized and can highly recommend this unique fictional history filled with colorful characters & a memorable story line.
Mainlinebooker
Apr 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
In this poignant novel, Mbue highlights the plight of natives in a fictional African village who are pillaged by an oil company that has overtaken their land. They have built oil pipes underneath the ground on lands previously owned by their ancestors that have produced toxic waste into the river, destroying the fishing and contaminating the water.The children no longer called it the big river, but the"sad river''. Mudslides have occurred because of the deforestation and sickness and death have ...more
Theresa
Jun 22, 2020 rated it did not like it
DNF

I simply do not have the energy to continue trying to read this meandering and slooooooow story. It is going nowhere. It’s unfortunate because the story itself seems very worthwhile and potentially interesting but the writing just killed all joy in reading.

1*/3.96*


In compliance with FTC guidelines------I received this book free from a Goodreads Giveaway in exchange for an honest review. The content of this review is not influenced by that fact. The feelings expressed are solely mine. I sincer
...more
Elena L.
Feb 23, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own
[4.75/5 stars]

"What happened will never unhappen, she liked to say; what is to happen will happen - better you focus on what's happening in front of you."

"... if everyone only did what they ought to do, who would do the things no one thought they had to do?"

Set in a fictional African village of Kosawa, HOW BEAUTIFUL WE WERE is a multigenerational story about a village dealing with environmental degradation brought by an American oil company (Pexton). Pipeline spills toxic waste on the river,
...more
Resh (The Book Satchel)
I enjoyed Imbolo Mbue's Behold the Dreamers and was eager to see how the second book read. In How Beautiful we were, we are taken to the fictional African town of Kosawa. Here, the American oil company Pexton has strengthened their roots leading to severe, irreparable environmental damage. The children of Kosawa are dying and having health problems. Their leader, as leaders usually are, is unconcerned and siding with Pexton. Until one day in 1980, when the village mad man, Konga, crashes a town ...more
Nioke
Jul 03, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-2020
I wanted to love this because the premise was interesting but it was just a chore to read. The prose is lovely but it is too long and I stopped caring about the characters and where the story was going. I forced myself to finish and the ending disappointed.
Fazila
Nov 11, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
FR REVIEW :

DISCLAIMER : Thank you, Netgalley and Canongate for providing me with an ARC of this book. I am leaving this review voluntarily.

How Beautiful We Were is a literary fiction/cultural fiction written by Imbolo Mbue. The story is set in the fictional African village of Kosawa. It tells the heartwrenching tale of the suffering and turmoil caused by the greed of western oil companies. The story is an unforgettable one written with brutal honesty and captures the readers from the get-go. It
...more
Andrea
Jan 25, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I was most pleased to get this book prepublication as I loved Behold the Dreamers. This book promised to be my reading trifecta: a well written-tome, a good story, and a setting in a different culture/time/place.

In the fictional African village of Kosawa, environmental degradation caused by the American oil company, Pexton, wrecks havoc on drinking water and farmland. Many die. Crops wither.

The broken promises of a large, pow
...more
Andrea
Jan 25, 2021 rated it really liked it
I was most pleased to get this book prepublication as I loved Behold the Dreamers. This book promised to be my reading trifecta: a well written-tome, a good story, and a setting in a different culture/time/place.

In the fictional African village of Kosawa, environmental degradation caused by the American oil company, Pexton, wrecks havoc on drinking water and farmland. Many die. Crops wither.

The broken promises of a large, powerful corporation versus locals with no power. A corrupt dictator, "t
...more
Leslye Davidson
Sep 22, 2020 rated it liked it
3.5. I received this book in a good reads giveaway.

The book has an interesting premise: an African village’s fight against the big US oil company that has poisoned its land. But I struggled to get through it and had to force myself to finish. The writing was flat, especially the sections narrated by the children. I should have cared more. I should have been broken hearted at the end. But I just felt relieved it was over
Sarah
Nov 26, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
It is an interesting story - African village being poisoned by the neighbouring American oil company, people rising up and seeking retribution. However it is so long - and so slow - something happens, then we hear about the same thing happening again through different viewpoints. Much as I love a bit of scene setting I did not need to know about the endless clapping and singing when a female has her first period - it was nothing to do with the plot.

I kept going but it was one of those books whe
...more
Lex
Chilling from the first sentence to the last, How Beautiful We Were is a captivating story detailing decades of suffering endured by families in a small African village, Kosawa, and their fight against the American oil company, Pexton, that is poisoning their water and ruining their land. Told from the multiple perspectives of the members of a Kosawa family and the children they grew up with, this reads like a collection of tales being passed from one generation to another. The reader follows al ...more
Ashley Fritch
Jun 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
4.5, rounded up.

Received arc in a goodreads giveaway.

This is the story of a people from a fictional village who have long been oppressed by their own government and an American oil company. The story is told through multiple lenses, though all are ultimately tied to Thula, the main protagonist.

The beginning of the story was compelling and drew me in right away. Towards the middle, the momentum slowed, but the ending was powerful and emotional.

Though this book contains commentary on a number of
...more
Billy
How Beautiful We Were is, to be straightforward, an excellent book. Its story of the village of Kosawa and their struggle against Pexton, an American oil company polluting their land, is deftly told through multiple perspectives and generations. While there are many characters, the plot centers around a woman named Thula, who is introduced during her childhood and followed throughout the story as she grows up to become the revolutionary firebrand who leads the fight against Pexton; it is her dev ...more
Anastasia
Dec 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Through gorgeous prose, Mbue shares a generational struggle of an African village against an American oil company.

However much this centers around the struggle for the right to their ancestral lands, every character has their own in depth struggles related to the village dynamics and daily life. No character is left behind in this touching, in depth and nuanced look into the repercussions of colonization and the cost others must pay for things that benefit other countries.

There is so much to u
...more
Tanya Patrice
Jan 25, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ebook
This book is fucking sad. If you're not gutted while reading this - something's wrong with you. But that emotion is also maybe why this book won't appeal to all readers - it just never lets up. The story tells of the people of the fictional African village of Kosawa, that's affected by the oil pipelines that run through it (let's call this *fiction* based on real life). It's told from the point of view of different people that live in the village and centers on Thula and her fight to get her vil ...more
Rachel León
I must admit I didn't actually read what this book was about when I gleefully accepted the chance to read an advanced reader copy through Netgalley (in exchange for an honest review). I loved Mbue's debut novel and was excited to read this one. Fans of Behold the Dreamers should brace themselves for a heavier read, but likely won't be disappointed. Mbue's writing remains sharp in this story set in a fictional African village powerless to the corruption of an American oil company (and their gover ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
1,376 followers
Imbolo Mbue is a native of Limbe, Cameroon. She holds a B.S. from Rutgers University and an M.A. from Columbia University. A resident of the United States for over a decade, she lives in New York City. BEHOLD THE DREAMERS is her first novel.

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Dearly Beloved
  • The Lost Ones
  • Obernewtyn (The Obernewtyn Chronicles, #1)
  • Flight #116 Is Down!
  • Now You See Them (Stephens & Mephisto Mystery, #5)
  • Miracle and Other Christmas Stories
  • In Falling Snow
  • The Midwinter Witch (The Witch Boy, #3)
  • Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me
  • Get a Life, Chloe Brown (The Brown Sisters, #1)
  • The Cut Out Girl: A Story of War and Family, Lost and Found
  • Penny for Your Secrets (Verity Kent, #3)
  • Outcrossing (Mysterious Charm, #1)
  • Ninth House (Alex Stern, #1)
  • The Return of the Soldier
  • A Countess Below Stairs
  • Field Trip
  • We Are All Birds of Uganda
See similar books…

Articles featuring this book

Some interesting news for book nerds: According to recent industry research, book sales spiked dramatically in 2020–otherwise a rather...
22 likes · 8 comments