How Beautiful We Were

Imbolo Mbue writes about tragedy and expresses it in the most profound way.

In the village of Kosawa, the people are being exposed to deadly toxins by the oil company Pexton. Starting in the 1980’s, the village has demanded for Pexton and the government to help the village that is sickly and dying. Kosawa’s children are deteriorating right before their parents’ eyes. Parents are burying their children; children are burying their parents, yet the local city officials and government turn a blind eye to their suffering.

Throughout the story readers connect with the main characters: the Nangi family. Thula the daughter, Bongo the uncle, Sahel the mother, Yaya the grandmother, and Juba the younger brother. We get different accounts of the passing years from their perspectives of life and struggle. They cry out for the powerful forces to end their suffering and oppression.

Moreover, we hear of other main figures and of the children who watch the village, their parents, and leaders during this time. Their account is as poignant as the Nangi family. They give us their voice in the struggle for liberation from their oppressors.

Overall, this story is beautifully written and worth reading. This book touches on colonization and the effects it has on countries. It’s about political corruption and the lack of morality amongst those in power. It’s about the survival of people and their culture. It’s about creating a movement even when it seems daunting. It’s about loss. It’s about life.

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