Reviews

Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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 (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

All of his life, Jonas Woldemariam had been listening for tension in the air, not so much to take action but simply to be aware. In his mid-thirties, with his marriage failing, he quietly drifts away from his life emotionally. Not that he'd ever been deeply engaged, or at least he hasn't appeared to be, according to his wife, Angela, an ambitious attorney with a New York law firm, desperately seeking the stability she didn't have growing up. Jonas had known childhood instability as well, the child of Ethiopian immigrants who'd separated early in their marriage and reunited later when his father, Yosef, finally immigrated to America, specifically Peoria, Illinois. But their time apart had established a distance the couple could never close, leaving Jonas to witness domestic violence and crushing indifference. Jonas' narration alternates between the dissolution of his own marriage and observations of a trip back to the Midwest to imagine the dissolution of his parents' marriage. Mengestu, author of The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears (2007), offers a similarly languid yet emotionally charged unwinding of relationships amid the turmoil of immigration and cultural adjustment.--Bush, Vanessa Copyright 2010 Booklist


Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved