Here’s the reason why I haven’t posted a review in a while: I’ve been procrastinating on Kintu. Not because I hated the book or because it’s bad. It’s because I enjoyed the book so much and got so much out of it that I needed time to process it all.
When I decided to sit and jot down some thoughts on it, I felt overwhelmed and indecisive. I didn’t know what to say, how much to say, or where to start. But I want to stop procrastinating on it and I want to urge everyone to read it, so as best as I can, I’ll just share what comes to mind as I think back on my reading experience with this book (and hope it all makes sense).
Historical; literary; magical realism
2014 in Uganda; 2017 in the U.S.
Uganda’s history reimagined through the cursed bloodline of the Kintu clan in an award-winning debut.
In 1750, Kintu Kidda unleashes a curse that will plague his family for generations. In this ambitious tale of a clan and of a nation, Makumbi weaves together the stories of Kintu’s descendants as they seek to break from the burden of their shared past and reconcile the inheritance of tradition and the modern world that is their future.
I heard many great things about this novel when it was published, but I wasn’t interested in reading it. If not for a bookclub I recently joined, I probably wouldn’t have picked up this book.
Jojo is thirteen years old and trying to understand what it means to be a man. His mother, Leonie, is in constant conflict with herself and those around her. She is black and her children’s father is white. Embattled in ways that reflect the brutal reality of her circumstances, she wants to be a better mother, but can’t put her children above her own needs, especially her drug use.
When the children’s father is released from prison, Leonie packs her kids and a friend into her car and drives north to the heart of Mississippi and Parchman Farm, the State Penitentiary. At Parchman, there is another boy, the ghost of a dead inmate who carries all of the ugly history of the South with him in his wandering. He too has something to teach Jojo about fathers and sons, about legacies, about violence, about love.
This is one of the many books that surprised me this year. I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did. I received an ARC copy, most likely through a contest, which I requested because the blurb says it’s about “an enigmatic artist” who’s a single mom who has a “mysterious past” and whose “disregard for the status quo” upsets the “carefully ordered community” she moves into with her daughter. All that made me want to find out what exactly happens in the story and now I’m glad I read it because Little Fires Everywhere is one of my favorite books of 2017.
In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned — from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.
Enter Mia Warren — an enigmatic artist and single mother — who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.
Homegoing was the best book I read this year. I’ve procrastinated on writing about it because I felt intimidated by all the emotions I felt and thoughts I thought while reading the novel. I want to share them all, but I don’t know how to express them. I wish I could just utter a sound, a single cry, that encompasses all I want to convey about how I felt while I read Homegoing. I think that would be the best way to communicate how the book made me feel.
“And in my village we have a saying about separated sisters. They are like a woman and her reflection, doomed to stay on opposite sides of the pond.”
It’s no secret that the events of our childhood greatly affect us. For some people, certain events leave such a deep scar that they carry the burden into adulthood. Others discard the burden along way. In Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner, the protagonist Amir carries the burden of his childhood regrets throughout much of his life. It’s not until mid-adulthood, when he receives a call from an old friend, that he begins to let go of the burden.
The story opens with an adult Amir considering the call he had received. It then jumps to the beginning, to Amir’s childhood and to a peaceful Afghanistan of kite-flying winters and summer afternoons spent with friends. The tale, relayed by the adult Amir, follows his development while hinting at the unrest brewing beneath the surface of Afghanistan.
Amir is born into an affluent family. His father is a merchant in Kabul and belongs to the ethnic majority, the Pashtuns. Amir greatly admires his father and tries hard to please him. Unfortunately, his efforts go unnoticed. As such, he has a strained relationship with his father. Though his father provides for him, Amir wishes he had more of his attention. It’s just the two of them—Amir’s mother died during childbirth—and the house servants.