Saturday, June 07, 2014

404 (2014 #32). All Our Names

by Dinaw Mengestu,
read by Saskia Maarleveld and Korey Jackson

I had a tough time with this book because I couldn't connect with either main character.  "Isaac" is an African refugee and Helen is his social worker in America.  The story - and the audiobook narration - alternates between the two's first-person viewpoints.

I found Helen in particular to be very shallow and unrealistic.  It seemed that her one-sided "romance" with Isaac was an effort on her part to create a thrill, both sexually and by (weakly) challenging the barely-hidden segregationist attitudes of her early-1970s Midwestern small town.  I never felt that Isaac loved Helen either; he was using her as much as she was using him.

"Isaac" is not his real name - we don't ever learn what that is.  It is, however, the name of  the best friend of Isaac.  They are both village boys who have gone to the city of Kampala supposedly to attend the university there.  Instead, they get caught up in a Ugandan revolution.  I don't have enough of a background on the history of this area for this part of the book to be meaningful to me.  However, there is a valuable message about how revolutionaries often end up behaving just the same as the despots they are trying to overthrow.

I would not have made it through this book if it had not been for the audiobook narrators.  You certainly can't tell that Saskia Maarleveld, who voiced Helen, grew up in New Zealand and France.  When she speaks for Isaac in the parts of the book narrated by Helen, she sounds almost like Korey Jackson, the voice of Isaac.  He does a great job with the cadence and pronunciation of English as spoken by many Africans.

© Amanda Pape - 2014

[This audiobook was sent to me by the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program in exchange for an honest review. It will be donated to my university library.]

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