MixedThe New York Times Book ReviewMeno vividly shows how migrants seeking refuge are inhumanely treated in many countries — disappeared into jails and detention centers, forced to pay bribes to law enforcement, left without recourse if they are robbed, and threatened with death. But, disappointingly for a novelist, his writing is often clunky or jarring ... The imprecise descriptions often dilute the men’s otherwise absorbing recollections of their journeys while black and undocumented ... Meno strives to make convincing cases for why Seidu and Razak had no choice but to leave Ghana — his account of Razak’s dissatisfaction with his country’s politics from an early age can seem especially strained — yet their reasons for leaving are not the only point ... It’s distracting, then, that Meno’s depictions of Ghana are marred by stereotypes and confusion ... By painting Ghana with clichés, Meno ends up reducing the country to a stock villain ... The two men tend to blur together as Meno toggles back and forth between their back stories and their experiences on the migrant trail; we don’t get a clear picture of their distinctive personalities, tics and desires. Their similar reactions of fear, anger and disbelief along the way feel repetitive.
Clemantine Wamariya and Elizabeth Weil
MixedThe New York Times Book ReviewThe sections of the book describing the sisters’ search for safety in Rwanda are told in impressionistic sketches from a 6-year-old’s point of view: a confusion of unknown menaces and destinations. Only later do we learn the specifics of the mass killings. The technique doesn’t fully work when the narrative turns to Wamariya’s stay in a lakeside town in Zaire — later the Democratic Republic of Congo — initially a happy period, beautifully detailed in the book, that descends into terror when that country, too, erupts into conflict. The passages on war here are vague, a litany of violence and despair presented without context or explanation. Yet Wamariya is piercing about her alienation in America and her effort to combat the perception that she is an exotic figure, to be pitied or dismissed ... Wamariya tells her own story with feeling, in vivid prose. She has remade herself, as she explains was necessary to do, on her own terms.