‘Heartbreaking and hopeful.’ Joanna Luloff
A powerful and moving debut surrounding three women’s quest for home.
Leona, an isolated American anthropologist, gives birth to a baby girl in a remote Maasai village and must decide how she can be a mother, in spite of her own grim childhood.
Jane, a lonely expat wife, follows her husband to the tropics and learns just how fragile life is.
Simi, a barren Maasai woman, must confront her infertility in a society in which females are valued by their reproductive roles.
Three very different women grapple with motherhood, recalibrate their identities and confront unforeseen tragedies and triumphs in this brilliant debut novel.
Readers love Adrienne Benson:
“this book is a compelling read for all sons, daughters, siblings, and parents”
“The story was captivating!”
“I floated away to Africa”
“The story is engrossing. I loved this book!”
“Amazing. Brilliant. Unforgetteable.”
“beautifully written with inventive imagery”
‘Benson illuminates human emotion and psychology with such accuracy…this is a beautiful novel.’ TIM JOHNSTON, New York Times bestselling author of DESCENT
‘Benson's depiction of motherhood across circumstances will please readers interested in stories about forging homes in other cultures.’ PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
‘This engrossing narrative offers the experience of engaging and empathizing with cultural differences deeper than unfamiliar customs. It can transport you to Kenya and present the doors of kinship.’ MARY CATHERINE BATESON, author of COMPOSING A LIFE
‘The African backdrop gives an interesting spin to Benson's exploration of themes related to motherhood, outsiderness, and emotional connection.’ BOOKLIST
‘Benson's characters are complicated people, damaged by circumstances past and present; her exploration of what it takes for their wounds to heal is aglow with empathy and insight.’ SUZI WUSS, author of THE CIVILIZED WORLD
‘Benson masterfully braids the lives, desires, and fears of three memorable women. Their loneliness and longing, their bravery and resilience are illuminated-with empathy and honesty-against the vivid landscapes of Kenya and Liberia. This clear-eyed novel is both heartbreaking and hopeful.’ JOANNA LULOFF author of THE BEACH AT GALLE ROAD
‘A riveting page-turner filled with wonder, grace, and joy. Adrienne Benson is a fantastic writer.’ BRANDO SKYHORSE, author of THE MADONNAS OF ECHO PARK
‘An enchanting and deeply moving story, The Brightest Sun is a lovely portrait of three women's lives redolent with beautiful evocations of the African landscape and light. A page-turner of a tale and a stirring and finally redemptive story of mothers and daughters.’ SARA MANSFIELD TABER author of DUSK ON THE CAMPO
About the author
Adrienne Benson grew up traversing sub-Saharan Africa, finding homes in Zambia, Liberia, Kenya, and Cote d’Ivoire. She is now happily ensconced in Washington, D.C. with her three kids. Her writing has appeared in Buzzfeed, The Foreign Service Journal, Brain, Child, The Washington Post, Huffington Post, ADDitude Magazine, and several anthologies. The Brightest Sun is her first novel.
Set in 1990s Kenya, this expansive debut from Benson follows the lives of five women over two generations that interconnect in extraordinary circumstances. Leona is an anthropological researcher living among the rural Maasai near Narok. After becoming pregnant during a capricious fling, Leona has her child in the isolated Maasai village and feels eerily disconnected from the baby. In her confusion, she turns to her Maasai friend, Simi, who provides her stability. Unable to have children, Simi adopts baby Adia to fulfill her dream of being a mother and to restore her identity and prestige in the strongly maternal Maasai society. In Liberia, Jane, a diplomat's wife who used to live in Narok, grapples with fear: a violent coup during her pregnancy has deeply affected her psyche, and she is consumed by the worry that her brother's mental illness will appear in her unborn daughter, Grace. Years later, teenaged Adia and Grace become friends after meeting in class and decide to track down Adia's father, which opens up many old wounds for all five women. Though the characters are intriguing, strong women, much of their personalities are delivered in chunks of exposition that slow the plot. Benson's depiction of motherhood across circumstances will please readers interested in stories about forging homes in other cultures.