This product was added to our catalog on Sunday 12 November, 2017.
From acclaimed author Dinaw Mengestu, a recipient of the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 award, The New Yorker’s 20 Under 40 award, and a 2012 MacArthur Foundation genius grant, comes an unforgettable love story about a searing affair between an American woman and an African man in 1970s America and an unflinching novel about the fragmentation of lives that straddle countries and histories.
All Our Names is the story of two young men who come of age during an African revolution, drawn from the safe confines of the university campus into the intensifying clamor of the streets outside. But as the line between idealism and violence becomes increasingly blurred, the friends are driven apart—one into the deepest peril, as the movement gathers inexorable force, and the other into the safety of exile in the American Midwest. There, pretending to be an exchange student, he falls in love with a social worker and settles into small-town life. Yet this idyll is inescapably darkened by the secrets of his past: the acts he committed and the work he left unfinished. Most of all, he is haunted by the beloved friend he left behind, the charismatic leader who first guided him to revolution and then sacrificed everything to ensure his freedom.
Elegiac, blazing with insights about the physical and emotional geographies that circumscribe our lives, All Our Names is a marvel of vision and tonal command. Writing within the grand tradition of Naipul, Greene, and Achebe, Mengestu gives us a political novel that is also a transfixing portrait of love and grace, of self-determination and the names we are given and the names we earn.
“You can’t turn the pages fast enough, and when you’re done, your first impulse is to go back to the beginning and start over . . . While questions of race, ethnicity, and point of origin do crop up repeatedly in Mengestu’s fiction, they are merely his raw materials, the fuel with which he so artfully—but never didactically—kindles disruptive, disturbing stories exploring the puzzles of identity, place, and human connection. Mengestu began this exploration with his dazzling first novel, The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears, and extended it in How to Read the Air. Good as they were, those books now look like warm-up acts . . . All Our Names is a book about an immigrant, but more profoundly it is a story about finding out who you are, about how much of you is formed by your family and your homeland, and what happens when those things go up in smoke . . . Like the best storytellers, Mengestu knows that endings don’t have to be happy to be satisfying, that mysteries don’t need to be explained, that discriminating between what can and can’t be known is more than enough. And he is generous enough to imbue his characters with this awareness as well . . . The victories in this beautiful novel are hard fought and hard won, but won they are, and they are durable.”—Malcolm Jones, The New York Times Book Review (cover)
“Deeply moving . . . Great lyricism and ferocity . . . An elegiac quality oddly reminiscent of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited . . . Mengestu writes from the points of view of Helen and Isaac with poignancy and psychological precision, deftly evoking their very different takes on the world. He also manages to make the reader understand the many things they have in common . . . Mengestu is concerned here not only with the dislocations experienced by immigrants, but also with broader questions of identity: how individuals define themselves by their dreams, their choices, the place or places they call home.”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“Disarmingly tender . . . Finely calibrated . . . The author perceptively explores the way that alienation serves as the handmaid of idealism . . . Leavening the attendant sadness if the fact that Mengestu’s characters never altogether abandon their hope—it survives not in political or social revolt but in the true and moving depictions of love and friendship.”—The Wall Street Journal
“Mournful, mysterious . . . Tantalizingly laconic . . . Delicately drawn . . . The emotional power seeps through lines that seem placid . . . Devastating.”—Washington Post
“Extraordinary . . . Taut and swift as a novella with an abiding mystery driving it forward . . . Mengestu masterfully plays these two storylines off one another. In both threads, the narrative revolves around what is visible and invisible in a person’s character, and how this duality can lead to problems when one is charmed . . . The raptures at the heart of All Our Names have a steeling quality . . . One reads to the end with a kind of desperate intensity.”—Boston Globe
“A subtle masterpiece . . . Mengestu uses love and war to powerfully explore a third, equally dramatic theme: identity . . . We see, in this novel, the way people become radicalized and get worked up for a cause; and the way at other times, people get worked up for love. Both can be directionless and, in the end, impossible . . . Mengestu tracks both themes with authority and feeling. His book is a powerful look at who we aren’t, and even, sometimes, who we are.”—Meg Wolitzer, NPR
“Profoundly moving . . . Mengestu’s voice is a finely tuned instrument . . . It conveys the easy banter between buddies as well as the paradoxical wit of political slogans. Counterintuitively, it also captures the elliptical convolutions of human psychology . . . Its words may be simple, but All Our Names speaks volumes. It sounds a great reverberation.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“Fierce and touching . . . As absorbing as it is thought-provoking . . . Mengestu’s best book yet.”—Library Journal (starred review)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Dinaw Mengestu is the award-winning author of two novels, The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears (2007) and How to Read the Air (2010). He is a graduate of Georgetown University and of Columbia University’s M.F.A. program in fiction and the recipient of a 5 Under 35 award from the National Book Foundation and a 20 Under 40 award from The New Yorker. His journalism and fiction have appeared in such publications as Harper’s Magazine, Granta, Rolling Stone, The New Yorker, and The Wall Street Journal. He is a recipient of a 2012 MacArthur Foundation genius grant and currently lives in New York City.
- Publisher: Knopf
- Hardcover: 272
- Language: English
- ISBN: 9780385349987