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The eagerly anticipated follow-up from the acclaimed author of Children of the Revolution, winner of the 2007 Guardian First Book Award.
Dinaw Mengestu was born in Ethiopia in 1978 and is a graduate of Georgetown and Columbia universities. His 2007 debut novel, Children of the Revolution, won the Guardian First Book Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. In 2010, he was included in the New Yorker's '20 Under 40' list of writers to watch.
Mengestu (The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears) stunningly illuminates the immigrant experience across two generations. Jonas Woldemariam's parents, near strangers when they marry in violence-torn Ethiopia, spend most of the early years of their marriage separated, eventually reuniting in America, but their ensuing life together devolves into a mutual hatred that forces a contentious divorce. Three decades later, Jonas, himself moving toward a divorce, retraces his parents' fateful honeymoon road trip from Peoria, Ill., to Nashville in an attempt to understand an upbringing that turned him into a man who has "gone numb as a tactical strategy" and become a fluent and inveterate liar-a skill that comes in handy at his job at an immigration agency, where he embellishes African immigrants' stories so that they might be granted asylum. Mengestu draws a haunting psychological portrait of recent immigrants to America, insecure and alienated, striving to fit in while mourning the loss of their cultural heritage and social status. Mengestu's precise and nuanced prose evokes characters, scenes, and emotions with an invigorating and unparalleled clarity. (Oct.) Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.
The characters in Mengestu's triumphant second novel (after the award-winning The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears) are forever having what one of them calls a "leaving experience." Ethiopian immigrant Yosef passed many borders before arriving in America; wife Miriam continually walks away from her abusive husband (even leaving their wrecked car in a ditch) before finally achieving permanent escape; and their diffident son, Jonas, the story's narrator, leaves dreams unfulfilled and eventually leaves his marriage-though, says his wife, he was never really there in the first place. The well-constructed narrative parallels Jonas's story and that of his parents, deftly cutting from the slow fizzle of Jonas's marriage to his parents' troubled lives to their iconic car trip from Peoria to Nashville before he was born. After his marriage ends, Jonas reconstructs that trip-a device that frames the novel, though it's really the emotional journey that matters. Verdict In authoritative prose that flows like liquid gold, Mengestu tells an absorbing story of how we learn that simply going forward is in fact to triumph. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 5/1/10.]-Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.
A straight-forward, compassionate, keenly sensitive observer of
real life -- James Lasdun * Guardian *
A story of exile and redemption, beautifully written -- Kate Saunders * The Times *
[Mengestu has] pulled off a narrative sleight of hand, weaving two - or is it three? - beautiful fictions, while reminding us subtly that the most seductive may be the least true * Los Angeles Times *
How To Read the Air is deeply thought out, deliberate in its craftsmanship and in many parts beautifully written...remarkably talented -- Miguel Syjuco * The Scotsman *
Challenging -- Peter Carty * Independent *