What Tears Us Apart

Deborah Cloyed, Author
Deborah Cloyed. Mira, $14.95 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-0-7783-1379-3
Reviewed on: 02/25/2013
Release date: 03/26/2013
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The novel’s beginning, which describes what appears to be a violent gang rape, sets the wrong tone for what is ultimately a story of romance and self-discovery—however shot-through it is with tragedy and social awareness. When the action jumps back in time from the assault, so that every scene marches toward it, this choice not only saps character development of interest—how significant can any minor personal epiphany be in light of what’s to come?—but also casts the love story and its mounting sexual tension in an obscene light. Leda is a disaffected heiress of 32 who hopes to find meaning volunteering at a Kenyan orphanage—and to perhaps find romance with its handsome founder, Ita. She’s shocked by the Nairobi slum but also transformed by her exposure to this alien world. The presence of Ita’s disturbing childhood friend Chege, a machete-wielding gangster, is a blot on her growing happiness, but a shift into Ita’s perspective illuminates their friendship, clarifying the compromises and bonds necessary to survival in a slum. Ita and Leda’s relationship grows against the backdrop of the escalating—and then erupting—tensions of the December, 2007 presidential elections in Kenya. Leda is a well-realized character and her journey a sympathetic, if clichéd, one; but the structure of the novel is fatally flawed. Agent: Frances Black, Literary Counsel. (Apr.)
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