NEW YORK TIMES EDITORS’ CHOICE • Set in Senegal, this modern-day Oliver Twist is a meditation on the power of love, and the strength that can emerge when we have no other choice but to survive.
“I loved this book because it is a story about generations of parents and children saving one another with a love so powerful that it transcends distance, time, and reason.”—Ann Napolitano, New York Times bestselling author of Dear Edward
Six-year-old Ibrahimah loves snatching pastries from his mother’s kitchen, harvesting string beans with his father, and searching for sea glass with his sisters. But when he is approached in his rural village one day by Marabout Ahmed, a seemingly kind stranger and highly regarded teacher, the tides of his life turn forever. Ibrahimah is sent to the capital city of Dakar to join his cousin Étienne in studying the Koran under Marabout Ahmed for a year, but instead of the days of learning that Ibrahimah’s parents imagine, the young boys, called Talibé, are forced to beg in the streets in order to line their teacher’s pockets.
To make it back home, Étienne and Ibrahimah must help each other survive both the dangers posed by their Marabout, and the darker sides of Dakar: threats of black-market organ traders, rival packs of Talibé, and mounting student protest on the streets.
Drawn from real incidents and transporting readers between rural and urban Senegal, No Heaven for Good Boys is a tale of hope, resilience, and the affirming power of love.
Bush's vivid and heart-wrenching debut paints a jarring portrait of Dakar, Senegal, inspired by the author's encounters with the talib s, boys forced by their teachers to beg on the street. The novel follows Ibrahimah, age six, as he fights for survival under the abusive hands of Marabout Ahmed, a duplicitous stranger who has tricked Ibrahimah's parents into sending their child to join his older cousin Etienne to beg in Dakar under the guise of studying the Quran. Ibrahimah sustains himself with memories of his village and the family he left behind, in order to cope with the physical, verbal, and sexual abuse they endure from his and Etienne's teacher, while Etienne determines to rescue them both. Snippets from the perspective of Ibrahimah's family deepen the kaleidoscopic portrait of a family whose faith blinds them against hearsay about the talib s' treatment. Ibrahimah is portrayed with realistic childlike innocence, which informs his occasional magical encounters with animals, such as a red bird that lands on his knee like a "ball of fire." Etienne, in contrast, has an all-knowing edge from the trauma he's suffered. This tale of survival and familial love will move readers.