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From the author of the New York Times bestseller Behold the Dreamers, comes a sweeping story about the collision of a small African village and an American oil company
Set in the fictional African village of Kosawa, How Beautiful We Were tells the story of a people living in fear amidst environmental degradation wrought by an American oil company. Pipeline spills have rendered farmlands infertile. Children are dying from drinking toxic water. Promises of clean-up and financial reparations to the villagers are made – and ignored. The country’s government, led by a brazen dictator, exists to serve its own interest only. Left with few choices, the people of Kosawa decide to fight back. But their fight will come at a steep price, one which generation after generation will have to pay.
Told through the perspective of a generation of children and the family of a girl named Thula, How Beautiful We Were is a masterful exploration of what happens when the reckless drive for profit, coupled with the ghost of colonialism, comes up against one community’s determination to hold onto its ancestral land and a young woman’s willingness to sacrifice everything for the sake of her people’s freedom.
'The unforgettable story of a community on the wrong end of Western greed, How Beautiful We Were will enthral you, appal you and show you what is possible when a few people stand up and say this is not right. A masterful novel by a spellbinding writer engaged with the most urgent questions of our day'
DAVID EBERSHOFF, New York Times bestselling author of THE DANISH GIRL
'Imbolo Mbue would be a formidable storyteller anywhere, in any language. It’s our good luck that she and her stories are American'
'How Beautiful We Were goes to the heart of one of the most urgent matters of the day. The highly suspenseful story of an African village’s struggle for survival and justice in the face of ruthless American corporate greed is written with remarkable acuity and compassion. Mbue has given us a book with the richness and power of a great contemporary fable, and a heroine for our time'
SIGRID NUNEZ, author of THE FRIEND, winner of the National Book Award
'Imbolo Mbue is a breathtaking talent'
CHRISTINA BAKER KLINE, New York Times bestselling author of ORPHAN TRAIN
'Who is this Imbolo Mbue and where has she been hiding? Her writing is startlingly beautiful, thoughtful, and both timely and timeless'
JACQUELINE WOODSON, National Book Award-winning author of RED AT BONE
'Mbue is a bright and captivating storyteller'
'Imbolo Mbue is a storyteller of astonishing gifts, which she uses in her second novel to lead us deep into the lives of a village decimated by environmental devastation and corporate greed. How Beautiful We Were reminds me of how interconnected we remain, no matter who or where we are'
TRACY K. SMITH, author of LIFE ON MARS, winner of the Pulitzer Prize
'Among the many virtues of Mbue’s novel is the way it uses an ecological nightmare to frame a vivid and stirring picture of human beings’ asserting their value to the world, whether the world cares about them or not. One can both grieve for Kosawa and be inspired by its determined fight for life'
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)