A fearless young woman from a small African village starts a revolution against an American oil company in this sweeping, inspiring novel from the New York Times best-selling author of Behold the Dreamers.
One of the 10 Best Books of the Year: The New York Times, People • One of the Best Books of the Year: The New York Times Book Review, The Washington Post, Esquire, Good Housekeeping, The Christian Science Monitor, Marie Claire, Ms. magazine, BookPage, Kirkus Reviews
“Mbue reaches for the moon and, by the novel’s end, has it firmly held in her hand.” (NPR)
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.
"Sweeping and quietly devastating...How Beautiful We Were charts the ways repression, be it at the hands of a government or a corporation or a society, can turn the most basic human needs into radical and radicalizing acts.... Profoundly affecting." (The New York Times Book Review)
"What a stunningly beautiful writer Mbue is, and how lucky we are to have her stories in the world." (USA Today)
“It’s a heartbreaking and relevant story that seeps into your bones, quickly engulfs you and doesn’t let go.” (The Seattle Times)