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.
“A novel 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
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.
About the Author
Imbolo Mbue is the author of the New York Times bestseller Behold the Dreamers, which won the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction and the Blue Metropolis Words to Change Prize and was an Oprah’s Book Club selection. Named a notable book of the year by The New York Times and The Washington Post and a best book of the year by close to a dozen publications, the novel has been translated into eleven languages, adapted into an opera and a stage play, and optioned for a movie. A native of Limbe, Cameroon, and a graduate of Rutgers and Columbia Universities, Mbue lives in New York City.
“The unforgettable story of a community on the wrong end of Western greed, How Beautiful We Were will enthrall you, appall you, and show you what is possible when a few people stand up and say, ‘This is not right.’ It is a masterful novel by a spellbinding writer engaged with the most urgent questions of our day.”—David Ebershoff, bestselling author of The Danish Girl
“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
“Among the many virtues of Mbue’s novel is the way it uses an ecological nightmare to frame a vivid and stirring picture of human beings’ asserting their value to the world, whether the world cares about them or not. One can both grieve for Kosawa and be inspired by its determined fight for life.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)