Drawing on own father’s biography, Anyuru narrates protagonist P’s struggles as a refugee, military-camp prisoner, and exile after the 1971 Idi Amin coup in his homeland of Uganda. Through it all, P never gives up his dream of becoming a pilot.
The novel starts off slowly, but this only mirrors the motions of an aircraft: taxiing before taking off at full speed. And when the narrative does take off, the ride is a smooth one: Anyuru’s prose is incandescent, effortlessly navigating the turbulence in his hero’s life. The story frame is tight, focusing on a few months of P’s incarceration and his subsequent exile, but it opens out into a sophisticated meditation on politics, race and ethnicity ... Reconstructing P’s journey is arduous since his escapades include acts of erasure to evade capture. Anyuru describes these maneuvers with authenticity and integrity: It’s in understanding P’s own path that the author is able to map out his own.
In part the story of a search for identity, in part mourning its loss in that of a father, family, homeland across two generations the lyrical longing of the writing countenances a globalised world in which everywhere could be anywhere, where nobody is wholly at home ... Sentimentality is averted by the lyricism of the language and a skill for surprises ... Anyuru's searingly poetic style rescues his writing from bleakness and sentimentality alike as he confronts the lies we live by.