Trigger warning for descriptions of death, descriptions of violence, descriptions of child molestation, rape and slave trade.
I got this copy from Netgalley for an honest review.
From the author of the New York Times bestseller Behold the Dreamers, comes a sweeping story about the collision of a small African village and an American oil company
Set in the fictional African village of Kosawa, How Beautiful We Were 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 only. Left with few choices, the people of Kosawa decide to fight back. But their fight will come at a steep price, one which generation after generation will have to pay.
Told through the perspective of a generation of children and the family of a girl named Thula, 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
This book was absolutely fantastic, I loved it. It was really hard in some parts though because it gets incredibly heavy!
The story follows Thula mainly and her family in a fictional village of Kosawa, where families have lived for generations. However, a couple of generations ago an oil company Pexton moved in walking distance from Kosawa and has slowly been poisining the Kosawa residents. There have been oil spills and gas flares which have released toxins into the air, into the river and into the earth where their crops are grown.
Every year there are more deaths of children and adults because of the oil company. When Thulas father Malabo and a couple of other men from the village take the two day journey to Bezam to have something done about the oil spills but they never return and this sets of a chain of events, when the representatives of Pexton come to placate the citizens of Kosawa they taken them captive and this sets of events that will only come to a head 40 years later.
I loved the way this book was written, there are chapters from each of the members of Thula’s family, there is Yaya her grandmother, Sahel her mother, Bongo her uncle and Juba her younger brother. These chapters are separated by chapters which are the views of ‘The Children’ which are Thula’s age-mates. These chapters are written saying ‘We’ instead of ‘I’ which I love.
The book opens with a chapter form The Children and it’s such an incredibly powerful entrance to the book. I found this book hard to read because it was so emotional but it is so beautifully written I couldn’t stop reading.