From acclaimed author Dinaw Mengestu, a recipient of the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 award, The New Yorker’s 20 Under 40 award, and a 2012 MacArthur Foundation genius grant, comes an unforgettable love story about a searing affair between an American woman and an African man in 1970s America and an unflinching novel about the fragmentation of lives that straddle countries and histories.
All Our Names is the story of two young men who come of age during an African revolution, drawn from the safe confines of the university campus into the intensifying clamor of the streets outside. But as the line between idealism and violence becomes increasingly blurred, the friends are driven apart—one into the deepest peril, as the movement gathers inexorable force, and the other into the safety of exile in the American Midwest. There, pretending to be an exchange student, he falls in love with a social worker and settles into small-town life. Yet this idyll is inescapably darkened by the secrets of his past: the acts he committed and the work he left unfinished. Most of all, he is haunted by the beloved friend he left behind, the charismatic leader who first guided him to revolution and then sacrificed everything to ensure his freedom.
Elegiac, blazing with insights about the physical and emotional geographies that circumscribe our lives, All Our Names is a marvel of vision and tonal command. Writing within the grand tradition of Naipul, Greene, and Achebe, Mengestu gives us a political novel that is also a transfixing portrait of love and grace, of self-determination and the names we are given and the names we earn.
This eBook edition includes a Reading Group Guide.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
In the third novel by acclaimed author and journalist Dinaw Mengestu, two stories intertwine and show us the power of human connection. The first—told by a cautious, unnamed narrator—recalls a friendship with the bold and rebellious Isaac. Set in Uganda after the independence movement, their relationship changes as protests escalate at their university. The second takes place in the recently desegregated American Midwest. Helen—a curious and naive social worker—strikes up a romance with Isaac and soon learns that his past in Uganda is more complicated than she was led to believe. Going back and forth in time, the novel’s tense settings strengthen these relationships as each character is forced to reveal pasts and secrets they had wished to leave behind. Suspenseful and expansive, All Our Names kept us on our toes and left us breathless by the end.