©2007 Dinaw Mengestu; (P)2008 Recorded Books
Mengestu has told a rich and lyrical story of displacement and loneliness. I was profoundly moved by this tale of Ethiopian immigrant's search for acceptance, peace, and identity. (Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns)
This is not a story for only an immigrant audience. The author, Dinaw Mengestu, writes in a way that makes this a universal story. In doing so, he does what the best writers accomplish. (The Oregonian)
[W]onderfully written and moving. (Esquire)
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"Great book, wonderful reader"
This is a wonderful, heartrending book book about an African immigrant trying to survive in the United States. He owns a shabby little convenience store in a rough (though gentrifying) section of Washington D.C. and lives with tragic memories and lonliness. The author writes with insight and eloquence. The story was enhanced by the excellent narration, which contributed greatly to my enjoyment.
"Compelling story, excellent narrator"
Well-told story of an Ethiopian immigrant who runs a corner grocery store in Washington, DC. The characters come to life in Dion Graham's narration. Especially good is his African accents as well as the various American characters. High recommend it as an engaging story.
Beautiful story about an Ethiopian man who immigrated to America in the seventies and owns shabby grocery store in Logan Circle. Covers the immigrant experience, love and gentrification. I really enjoyed every word.
This is a fascinating and beautiful book. Dion Graham reads it well, though sometimes he feels a bit off. But the story is so wonderful and so absorbing that nothing else seems to matter.
The narrator was incredible. The voices of different characters were clearly distinguishable. He did a great job with the reading.
It was a bit anti-climactic.
"No frills, just characters and real emotions"
I could easily picture places, people, facial expressions, tension, tenderness; all of it, thanks to the author's intricate descriptions. I felt for and with the characters, as though I were standing in the same room as them in each scene. Realistic dialogue puts the reader right into the character's mind. Mengetsu is a wonderful writer with a gift for observing and replicating human behavior at its realest.
"In spite of the reviews, not a great book."
The really good writers can tell a story with eloquence and insight. Classic examples are Hemingway, Gore Vidal, Henry Miller, Victor Hugo and more recently Christopher Hitchens and David Foster Wallace. Then there are the writers who tell a very good story even though their prose is not great. Examples are John Krakauer, Michael Crichton and Dan Brown. One tries to avoid are books that have bad prose and an uninteresting story. That would describe The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears. In spite of my opinion however, this book is required reading for all freshmen at Middlebury College in Vermont. By page 50, one could care less about any of the characters who, frankly, do nothing interesting. Well, yes, they do some things: drink too much, quit jobs, act lazy, have a relation with a prostitute, go to nude bars, fail to pay the rent, read Dostoyevsky to an 11 year old girl and play word games about African dictators. Every now and then someone throws a brick through a car window. As for the writing, it is not very inspired. Mr. Mengestu drones on about what people are thinking about saying, how they feel about saying something, what they might do if something else was said or whatever. The dialogue is underwhelming. He loves to end sentences with prepositions and the main character pretends he knows what everyone else is thinking and for the most part he is either wrong or no one cares. All that being said, I realize I am in the minority here, but even as an immigration novel, this is a far cry from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Angela’s Ashes, Middlesex or Lolita. However, a lot of people thought this thing was great. Rob Nixon, a professor of English at the University of Wisconsin wrote in the New York Times, “This is a great African novel, a great Washington novel and a great American novel.” Zero for three, professor. The Los Angeles Times guy reviewer wrote this: “Seldom has a character emerged in a recent novel who is so compellingly dark but honest, hopeful but dismal, and able to turn his chronicle into a truly American tapestry.” And of course Oprah's reviewer loved it. So, maybe it’s just not my cup of tea.
the book drags on from one disappointment to the next. Good news is never realized, the main character just constantly struggles in a depressing story of an immigrant's life trying to realize a better life in the US.
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