Michel is ten years old, living in Pointe Noire, Congo, in the 1970s. His mother sells peanuts at the market, his father works at the Victory Palace Hotel, and brings home books left behind by the white guests. But worryingly for Michel, the witch doctor has told his mother that he has hidden the key to her womb, and must return it before she can have another child. Somehow he must find it.
Alain Mabanckou (born 24 February 1966) is a novelist, journalist, poet, and academic, a French citizen born in the Republic of the Congo, he is currently a Professor of Literature at UCLA. He is best known for his novels and non-fiction writing depicting the experience of contemporary Africa and the African diaspora in France. He is among the best known and most successful writers in the French language and one of the best known African writers in France. In some circles in Paris he is known as the Samuel Beckett of Africa. He is also controversial, and criticized by some African and diaspora writers for stating Africans bear responsibility for their own misfortune.