Novel Approach: Corruption and resilience dominate 'How Beautiful We Were'

“Life doesn’t get easier or more forgiving, we get stronger and more resilient.” —Steve Maraboli

During the past year, many of us have reflected on the importance of our homes, especially since we’ve been spending so much of our time in our homes during the pandemic. Our latest novel tells the story of a community of people fighting to stay in their homes after the living conditions have become increasingly detrimental due to pollution.

How Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Mbue

Award-winning author Imbolo Mbue takes readers on a sweeping and heartbreaking journey in her sophomore novel “How Beautiful We Were.”

Her haunting story revolves around the fictional village of Kosawa, a place that is suffering because of the pollution caused by nearby oil drilling. When the children of Kosawa begin to die at a horrifying rate, the village finds itself facing down an uncaring corporation and a disinterested government.

Mbue writes “How Beautiful We Were” from multiple perspectives that offer insight into how oil drilling has impacted the collective psyche of the village in addition to polluting the villager’s home. Written from the perspective of the village’s children as they grow into adulthood, Mbue reveals that, despite the many ways the people sought to have better conditions in their village, the only way for them to survive is to leave the only home they’ve ever known.

As the children grow up, having survived the deaths of their peers and relatives, they seek change. They begin to take up arms against the oil company that has damaged their home. While Thula, a girl who lost many relatives to the scourge of the oil company and government, calls for revolution, her friends decide to take violent action into their own hands.

Told across a 40 year period, the story of Kosawa is a heart-shattering tale of resilience and sorrow, as a community fights with everything they have to stay in their homes, in a world where capitalism, corruption and indifference are killing them.

From the book jacket…

We should have known the end was near. So begins Imbolo Mbue’s powerful second novel, How Beautiful We Were. Set in the fictional African village of Kosawa, it tells of a people living in fear amid environmental degradation wrought by an American oil company. Pipeline spills have rendered farmlands infertile. Children are dying from drinking toxic water. Promises of cleanup and financial reparations to the villagers are made—and ignored. The country’s government, led by a brazen dictator, exists to serve its own interests. Left with few choices, the people of Kosawa decide to fight back. Their struggle will last for decades and come at a steep price.

If you enjoy…

For readers looking to read more haunting accounts, Christy Lefteri spins a beautiful tale about a Syrian refugee trying to recover from the trauma of loss while finding his way in a new country in “The Beekeeper of Aleppo.”

tinamarie.craven@hearstmediact.com