After the civil war, Imperi, a small Sierra Leonean town, tries to rebuild the life it used to have. Three characters, Kadie, Moiwa and Kainesi, come to their native town waiting for the return of the younger generation. Everybody is willing to start anew.
However, after a while, their goodwill and energy cannot resist material precariousness: the town lacks food and clean water, the teachers don’t get paid on time; the corruption of local administration officers ravages, rapes and accidents destroy the fragile peace and hope of the townspeople.
After the resounding success of A Long Way Gone, Ishmael Beah’s second novel is a story of hope and deep humanity. Beah imposes a powerful, lyrical tone in which suffering and sorrow are always transformed into hope and compassion; his characters are all the more powerful because they struggle not only to survive, but to keep their dignity and the cohesion of their community. It is a story of people doing their best to pass on their values, a story told both with gripping lucidity and poetry.
The oral tradition of Mendé language and culture permeates the novel and gives it a particular music and rhythm, and the very plot seems to follow the pattern of an oral story, with a circular structure framed by stanzas that remind the reader of the endless renewal of human hope despite the dramatic turns of fate. Life must go on, and people must live to tell its tale. As the Mendé say,
“It is the end, or maybe the beginning of another story. Each story begins and ends with a woman, a mother, a grandmother, a daughter, a child. Each story is a birth…”
Review by Ioana Danaila