Friday, February 13, 2015

All Our Names by Dinaw Mengestu

by Alida Hanson

The body of African diaspora literature is growing, and this highly praised addition is set in Uganda and the American midwest during the 70s. The story is told in alternating voices: Isaac, a young man (in his 20s) living on a temporary visa in the midwest after being involved in a bloody Ugandan coup, and Helen, the social worker assigned to his case. They fall in love.

If the story were as simple as that you would be reading a different book. The themes here are love, loss, dislocation, and loneliness (it's heartbreaking). And, because of the first person alternating viewpoints, you're always working to figure out what's really happening. You have to be comfortable drawing your own inferences especially when it comes to character motivation.

I recommend this to readers who are interested in Africa, historical fiction or who like to keep up with the latest in serious literary fiction. Mengestu has written several other highly praised novels and I am interested in reading more.

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