In this winner of the English PEN award, Babakar is a doctor living alone in Guadeloupe with only the memories of his childhood in Mali. When the child Anaïs unexpectedy comes into his life, Babakar must abandon his solitude and fly to Haiti, where he and his two friends Movar and Fouad desperately search for Anaïs's family.
At once touching and devastating, the book explores the effects of loss and grief on a personal, communal, and national level, but does so with a personal voice that feels more like a having a conversation than reading a book ... a kaleidoscopic look at migration and political upheaval in different countries. Three narratives in a single novel might sound like too much, but each feels like sitting across someone while having coffee and listening to them tell their story. Condé's prose is easy to read, funny and packed with entertaining turns of phrase, but also brilliantly observant ... a novel that cements Condé as a literary giant who beautifully chronicles the humanity found in some of the most violent places in the world.
The prose is fluid, luminous, and evocative of each setting. It also hops from the present day to the rich backstories of each character, highlighting the struggles inflicted on them because of political strife, climate disasters, and colorism. They are layered characters who, despite their circumstances, find hope in friendship. The novel is crowded with details about their struggles; they are linked through how they’ve survived deceit, betrayal, and hardship. The subtle cynicism throughout the novel is balanced by the love the men have for each other.
... intense ... Condé puts forth the secrets and histories of a fascinating cast, producing a timeless exploration of the wounds that emerge—and linger—when people lose those who mean the most to them, be it their family, friends, or country. This faithful portrayal of grief and displacement is tough to forget.