New York Times Notable Book
New York Times Bestseller
What Is the What is the epic novel based on the life of Valentino Achak Deng who, along with thousands of other children —the so-called Lost Boys—was forced to leave his village in Sudan at the age of seven and trek hundreds of miles by foot, pursued by militias, government bombers, and wild animals, crossing the deserts of three countries to find freedom. When he finally is resettled in the United States, he finds a life full of promise, but also heartache and myriad new challenges. Moving, suspenseful, and unexpectedly funny, What Is the What is an astonishing novel that illuminates the lives of millions through one extraordinary man.
Valentino Achak Deng, real-life hero of this engrossing epic, was a refugee from the Sudanese civil war-the bloodbath before the current Darfur bloodbath-of the 1980s and 90s. In this fictionalized memoir, Eggers (A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius) makes him an icon of globalization. Separated from his family when Arab militia destroy his village, Valentino joins thousands of other "Lost Boys," beset by starvation, thirst and man-eating lions on their march to squalid refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya, where Valentino pieces together a new life. He eventually reaches America, but finds his quest for safety, community and fulfillment in many ways even more difficult there than in the camps: he recalls, for instance, being robbed, beaten and held captive in his Atlanta apartment. Eggers's limpid prose gives Valentino an unaffected, compelling voice and makes his narrative by turns harrowing, funny, bleak and lyrical. The result is a horrific account of the Sudanese tragedy, but also an emblematic saga of modernity-of the search for home and self in a world of unending upheaval.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Any time I want to complain about my day I think about the lost boys and this awesome story. Must read
...for this book.
The last paragraph is perfection.
Enlightening but not compelling.
While this story was mildly entertaining, it was (at times) a chore to read. The novel lacked a real villain and the plot was “soft” and not really clear. Because the story is “fictionalized”, it is hard for the reader to know which parts are realistic or exaggeration/conjecture/speculation. Regardless, the story definitely provides the reader with thought-provoking nuggets. It also makes you want to know more about the actual conflict(s). I liked the book well enough to suggest it to another fellow reader. I also bought the book for a Sudanese fellow that works at a convenient store that I frequent. By the way… he had never heard of the question “What is the What?"