Claire's Reviews > How Beautiful We Were

How Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Mbue
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it was amazing
bookshelves: fiction, around-the-world, around-the-world-2021, cameroon-literature

This was a brilliant read and the kind of reading journey I love. Imbolo Mbue takes you back to a fictional African village, which could be in any number of countries, she names many of her characters after cities in those many countries and tells what should be a simple story, about how this village has been affected by the many interventions of both outsiders and by those placed in power in their own country.

Mostly the story is narrated through members of the same family, of Thula and her brother Juba, their mother Saleh, grandmother Yaya, uncle Bogo and then the third person plural (we) of The Children, their age mates.

The issue the village tries to address is the polluting of the river and air, the poisoning of the land, the deaths of children since a corporation arrived and began drilling for oil. Their attempts to reason with whoever it is they can speak to to address their concerns, because this is all happening on their land, result in dire consequences, yet they persevere and each generation attempts to reconcile the problem, each time learning more about the complexity of a situation that is repeated the world over by those who exploit partnering with those in power, and the false hopes provided by those who want to do good and the money making machine of the law and lawyers and the ineffectiveness of courts.

It's brilliantly conveyed, right from the first character Kongo, deemed a madman, the one who first stands up and commits an act of rebellion, the one who sees what others can not see, how it it all will end.
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Reading Progress

September 16, 2021 – Started Reading
September 16, 2021 – Shelved
September 16, 2021 – Shelved as: fiction
September 16, 2021 – Shelved as: around-the-world
September 16, 2021 – Shelved as: around-the-world-2021
September 16, 2021 – Shelved as: cameroon-literature
September 16, 2021 –
11.0% "A village that allowed a corporation to drill for oil is losing its children to an unknown maladie. They suspect it is due with contamination created by the company. They deny it and the village rep tries to downplay the gravity of their losses.
At the regular 8 weekly meeting, the village madman stands up to the representatives threatening them. The villagers at first fearful of repercussions, become courageous."
September 16, 2021 –
24.0% "Thula's father who lead the group of men to confront the leadership of the company exploiting their land for oil has been missing over a year.
The village decides to make his brother Bongo their new (reluctant) leader, now he narrates.
Their initial plan, to elicit names of those who can help them, encounters unforseen complications."
September 17, 2021 –
33.0% "Loving this, wonderful authentic storytelling, a kind of going back to the source, to the origins of discontent in the village. Kongo (the so-called madman) is the one who dares to make the intervention that sets the villagers off on their journey (hero's), their error in not subsequently listening to his sage wisdom, a little insight into where this may be leading."
September 18, 2021 –
75.0% "This story of a village narrated by different female members if one family and the collective (we) voice of "The Children" is so well done and so comprehensive, it reminds me a little of the effect of reading Yaa Gyasi's Homegoing, that understanding of all the events and people(s)that influence each generation and how they then behave, react. Absolutely stunning. Love it."
September 19, 2021 –
94.0% "Nearing the end and the youngest song Juba is given voice. For years he supports his sister Thula in her quest for liberation from those who exploit their land and resources, but sees and understands that they lack the foundation for their country to rise from. His wife Nubia, facilitates the demands of the corrupt, padding their existence, to ensure privilege. Kosawa seems a long time ago."
September 20, 2021 – Finished Reading

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