Author: Imbolo Mbue

Narrators: Prentice Onayemi, Janina Edwards, Dion Graham, JD Jackson, Allyson Johnson, Lisa Renee Pitts

Publication Date: March 9, 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Book Description

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 America oil company.

“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 the story of a people living in fear amidst environmental degradation wrought by an American oil company.

Pipeline spills have rendered farmlands infertile. Children are dying from drinking toxic water. Promises of clean-up and financial reparations to the villagers are made—and ignored. The country’s government, led by a brazen dictator, exists to serve its own interest. Left with few choices, the people of Kosawa decide to fight back. Their struggle would last for decades and come at a steep price.

Told through 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 onto its ancestral land and a young woman’s willingness to sacrifice everything for the sake of her people’s freedom.

Book Review

How Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Mbue is a moving story about a fictional African Village told from multiple perspectives. An American oil company causes devastating problems for the people and land. The villagers are dealing with a government that doesn’t care about its people and only cares about its own interest. The story revolves around Thula.  Thula grows from a nervous, hardworking girl into a strong women fighting for justice. Thula is the kind of character that I look for in books. She is inspiring and relatable. How Beautiful We Were was difficult to read at times but very important and impactful. The village is always helping each other and Thula makes it her life’s mission to help others.  I am always interested to get inside characters’ heads, so loved all of the perspectives in How Beautiful We Were.  The characters had different experiences and it was interesting to see how they felt and reacted to certain events. I love Imbolo Mbue’s books and will read anything she writes.

I listened to the audiobook narrated by Prentice Onayemi, Janina Edwards, Dion Graham, JD Jackson, Allyson Johnson, and Lisa Renee Pitts. All of the narrators did a great job and were the perfect voices for their characters. I am so glad I listened to the audiobook.

Thank you Random House for the gifted book and Penguin Random House Audio for the gifted audiobook.

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 was an Oprah’s Book Club selection. The novel has been translated into eleven languages, adapted into an opera and a stage play, and optioned for a miniseries.

Her new novel, How Beautiful We Were, was published on March 9, 2021.

A native of Limbe, Cameroon, and a graduate of Rutgers and Columbia Universities, Mbue lives in New York.

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