In Uganda, two young men get caught up in a revolt against the post-colonial regime in the early 1970s. As the line between idealism and violence becomes increasingly blurred, the friends are driven apart – one of them into the deepest peril.
In a quiet town in the America Midwest, an exotic stranger arrives: an exchange student from Africa called Isaac. Helen, the social worker asked to help him settle in, quickly falls for him, though she soon learns to keep their affair hidden from prejudiced eyes. And she soon realises that Isaac is haunted by his mysterious past.
Switching back and forth between Africa and America, this taut, searing novel blazes with insights about the physical and emotional geographies that circumscribe our lives. Writing within the tradition of Naipaul, Greene, and Achebe, Mengestu gives us a political novel that is also a transfixing portrait of love and grace, self-determination, and the names we are given and the names we earn.