This first novel from Sierra Leone–born author Beah (A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, 2007) features characters who face the challenges of returning to normalcy after the horrors of civil war in Sierra Leone.
At times, it’s hard to discern what predominates, the savagery of war and its aftermath or the promise of the book's title. As Mama Kadie explains, “The war has changed us, but I hope not so much that we’ll never find our way back.” The place she, her family and her friends are trying to find their way back to is Imperi, a village that has been devastated by the war. Reminders are everywhere: Sila and his children, for example, whose hands were chopped off by the ruthless Sgt. Cutlass. At the center of the return to Imperi is Bockarie, a teacher who wants to resume his life in the village along with fellow teacher Benjamin. Both men struggle against astonishingly high odds, including children who seem to have no future and an administrator who’s embezzling money that should go toward their salaries. When a company starts to mine rutile (a mineral with many desirable uses and whose presence usually presages the discovery of diamonds), many of the students abandon school for the steady paycheck mining provides. The promise of riches also brings foreigners into Imperi, and they have no respect for the traditions of the native culture. In fact, they show their contempt through raping the local women—at least till “Colonel” puts a stop to it by responding to this brutishness with his own brand of aggression.
UNICEF Ambassador Beah writes lyrically and passionately about ugly realities as well as about the beauty and dignity of traditional ways.