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How Beautiful We Were: A Novel

Imbolo Mbue

From the celebrated author of the New York Times bestseller Behold the Dreamers comes a sweeping, wrenching story about the collision of a small African village and an American oil company.

We should have known the end was near. So begins Imbolo Mbue's powerful second novel, How Beautiful We Were. Set in the fictional African village of Kosawa, it tells of a people living in fear amid environmental degradation wrought by an American oil company. Pipeline spills have rendered farmlands infertile. Children are dying from drinking toxic water. Promises of cleanup and financial reparations to the villagers are made--and ignored. The country's government, led by a brazen dictator, exists to serve its own interests. Left with few choices, the people of Kosawa decide to fight back. Their struggle will last for decades and come at a steep price.

Told from the perspective of a generation of children and the family of a girl named Thula who grows up to become a revolutionary, How Beautiful We Were is a masterful exploration of what happens when the reckless drive for profit, coupled with the ghost of colonialism, comes up against one community's determination to hold on to its ancestral land and a young woman's willingness to sacrifice everything for the sake of her people's freedom.

 

How Beautiful We Were goes to the heart of one of the most urgent matters of the day. The highly suspenseful story of an African village’s struggle for survival and justice in the face of ruthless American corporate greed is written with remarkable acuity and compassion. Mbue has given us a book with the richness and power of a great contemporary fable, and a heroine for our time.”—Sigrid Nunez, author of The Friend, winner of the National Book Award

“Imbolo Mbue is a storyteller of astonishing gifts, which she uses in her second novel to lead us deep into the lives of a village decimated by environmental devastation and corporate greed. How Beautiful We Were reminds me of how interconnected we remain, no matter who or where we are.”—Tracy K. Smith, author of Life on Mars, winner of the Pulitzer Prize

 

Imbolo Mbue is a native of Limbe, Cameroon. She holds a B.S. from Rutgers University and an M.A. from Columbia University. A resident of the United States for over a decade, she lives in New York City.

 

  • Publisher: Random House (March 9, 2021)
  • Language: English
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • ISBN-10: 0593132424
  • ISBN-13: 9780593132425
  • Item Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Dimensions: 6.37 x 1.29 x 9.53 inches