A bold new novel that “augments a body of work worthy of a Nobel Prize” (Kirkus Reviews), from the internationally acclaimed author of North of Dawn
Nuruddin Farah—“the most important African novelist to emerge in the past twenty-five years” (The New York Review of Books)—returns with a provocative, unforgettable tale about family, freedom, and loyalty. A departure in theme and setting, Hiding in Plain Sight is a profound exploration of the tensions between liberty and obligation, the ways in which gender and sexual orientation define us, and the unintended consequences of the secrets we keep.
When Bella, a fashion photographer living in Rome, learns of her beloved half-brother’s murder, she travels to Nairobi to care for her niece and nephew. But when their mother resurfaces, reasserting her maternal rights and bringing with her a gale of chaos and confusion that mirrors the deepening political instability in the region, Bella must decide how far she will go to obey the call of sisterly responsibility.
Somali writer Farah's (Crossbones) 12th novel takes on religious extremism and sexual politics in Africa in this bold but ponderous novel about a woman reassembling her family in the wake of a tragic event. After her older half-brother, Aar, a high-ranking UN official, is killed in a terrorist attack on the organization's headquarters in Mogadiscio, Somalia, the 35-year-old, half-Italian, half-Somali Bella is forced to put her photography career on hold and travel to Nairobi, where Aar's teenage children, Salif and Dahaba, live. There, she adjusts to her new role of surrogate mother and shares her grief with family friends and Aar's former lover, a Swedish UN official named Gunilla, while waging a custody battle with Aar's estranged wife, Valerie, who arrives with the woman for whom she left her family 10 years earlier, Padmini. While the tension between Valerie and Bella is compelling, and Valerie and Padmini's experiences as lesbians living in Africa illuminating, the novel otherwise suffers from a lack of forward movement. Whole sections are spent on quotidian scenes that do nothing to develop the story or characters. Many of the more interesting threads and subplots remain underdeveloped, such as the attack that kills Aar and one about a friend of Valerie and Padmini's whose gay bar in Nairobi is raided, leaving the reader wishing Farah had more tightly focused his narrative.
Not worth purchasing
I was intrigued by this book after reading a brief synopsis of it. I understood it would be a murder mystery type of plot, exploring potentially the politics of UN officials working in conflict areas. The book, in reality, has nothing to do with the plot description put forth in the synopsis. The writing is disjointed and laughable at times for its incoherence. The style does not flow; several sections read more like bizarre stream-of-consciousness dialogue with little to no thought to the overall pace of the novel. Would not recommend.