The Civilized World

Susi Wyss, Author
Susi Wyss, Holt, $15 trade paper (240p) ISBN 978-0-8050-9362-9
Reviewed on: 12/20/2010
Release date: 04/01/2011
Ebook - 256 pages - 978-1-4299-7197-3
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In this smart, urbane debut, characters strive for understanding within a cacophonous modern landscape. Two parallel but conflicting stories open and close the collection, to moving effect: Adjoa and her twin brother, Kojo, are migrant workers from Ghana, having lived for 12 years in the Ivory Coast, saving up to make enough money to return and start a hair salon. Adjoa is serious and single-minded about her mission, but Kojo's impatience at gaining fast money prompts him to get involved in the robbery of the home of Adjoa's wealthy American employer, Janice. The reckless act ends tragically, and Adjoa has to carry a heavy load of guilt back to Accra, where she opens her salon and tries to find a good husband who won't take advantage of her or her business. Elsewhere, Janice reappears on a road trip in the Central African Republic and at an Ethiopian orphanage, where she intends to adopt a child on her own. Wyss offers nuanced takes on vastly different corners of Africa, transcending travelogue to achieve resonant narratives—sometimes funny, sometimes stark—with both grit and heart. (Apr.)
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