Searing, lyrical, and ultimately devastating, Appanah’s latest novel might be her finest yet.

TROPIC OF VIOLENCE

A teenage boy navigates a life of poverty and brutality on the island of Mayotte in the Indian Ocean.

Moïse is barely 14 when his adoptive mother, Marie, suddenly dies. They live on the tropical island of Mayotte, officially a “department” of France. Every year, scores of undocumented immigrants—from the Comoro Islands, Africa, and elsewhere—wash up on Mayotte’s shores in small boats known as kwassa-kwassas. That’s how Moïse’s birth mother arrived. One night, she appeared in the hospital where Marie worked as a nurse, handed over her baby, and disappeared. In her latest novel, Appanah (Waiting for Tomorrow, 2018, etc.) interrogates difficult truths about immigration, class, poverty, and race and doesn’t settle for any easy answers. After Marie dies, Moïse falls from a middle-class life to one of desperation. He turns to a local shantytown and a brutal gang leader known as Bruce. In short, lyrically vivid chapters, Appanah alternates from one character’s point of view to another’s—some of them, like Marie, speaking from beyond the grave. “I used to think,” Moïse explains, “that on the day when I discovered the truth about my birth, something in my head would click into place.” Things don’t work out that way. Appanah, who was born in Mauritius and now lives in France, has written a crucial, timely novel. In it, she shows that beyond all the good intentions of the well-meaning lies a seething, anguished world that will require more than a few NGOs to recover. Moïse is just one of its victims.

Searing, lyrical, and ultimately devastating, Appanah’s latest novel might be her finest yet.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64445-024-6

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Graywolf

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Wingate sheds light on a shameful true story of child exploitation but is less successful in engaging readers in her...

BEFORE WE WERE YOURS

Avery Stafford, a lawyer, descendant of two prominent Southern families and daughter of a distinguished senator, discovers a family secret that alters her perspective on heritage.

Wingate (Sisters, 2016, etc.) shifts the story in her latest novel between present and past as Avery uncovers evidence that her Grandma Judy was a victim of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society and is related to a woman Avery and her father meet when he visits a nursing home. Although Avery is living at home to help her parents through her father’s cancer treatment, she is also being groomed for her own political career. Readers learn that investigating her family’s past is not part of Avery's scripted existence, but Wingate's attempts to make her seem torn about this are never fully developed, and descriptions of her chemistry with a man she meets as she's searching are also unconvincing. Sections describing the real-life orphanage director Georgia Tann, who stole poor children, mistreated them, and placed them for adoption with wealthy clients—including Joan Crawford and June Allyson—are more vivid, as are passages about Grandma Judy and her siblings. Wingate’s fans and readers who enjoy family dramas will find enough to entertain them, and book clubs may enjoy dissecting the relationship and historical issues in the book.

Wingate sheds light on a shameful true story of child exploitation but is less successful in engaging readers in her fictional characters' lives.

Pub Date: June 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-425-28468-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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This book sings with the terrible silence of dead civilizations in which once there was valor.

THINGS FALL APART

Written with quiet dignity that builds to a climax of tragic force, this book about the dissolution of an African tribe, its traditions, and values, represents a welcome departure from the familiar "Me, white brother" genre.

Written by a Nigerian African trained in missionary schools, this novel tells quietly the story of a brave man, Okonkwo, whose life has absolute validity in terms of his culture, and who exercises his prerogative as a warrior, father, and husband with unflinching single mindedness. But into the complex Nigerian village filters the teachings of strangers, teachings so alien to the tribe, that resistance is impossible. One must distinguish a force to be able to oppose it, and to most, the talk of Christian salvation is no more than the babbling of incoherent children. Still, with his guns and persistence, the white man, amoeba-like, gradually absorbs the native culture and in despair, Okonkwo, unable to withstand the corrosion of what he, alone, understands to be the life force of his people, hangs himself. In the formlessness of the dying culture, it is the missionary who takes note of the event, reminding himself to give Okonkwo's gesture a line or two in his work, The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger.

This book sings with the terrible silence of dead civilizations in which once there was valor.

Pub Date: Jan. 23, 1958

ISBN: 0385474547

Page Count: 207

Publisher: McDowell, Obolensky

Review Posted Online: April 23, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1958

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