How to Read the Air

Dinaw Mengestu, Author
Dinaw Mengestu, Riverhead, $25.95 (320p) ISBN 978-1-59448-770-5
Reviewed on: 08/02/2010
Release date: 10/01/2010
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-1-59448-539-8
Downloadable Audio - 978-1-4618-0704-9
Open Ebook - 320 pages - 978-1-101-45399-5
Open Ebook - 320 pages - 978-1-101-44917-2
Paperback - 325 pages - 978-0-09-952103-7
Open Ebook - 320 pages - 978-1-101-44435-1
Hardcover - 383 pages - 978-1-60285-955-5
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Mengestu (The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears) stunningly illuminates the immigrant experience across two generations. Jonas Woldemariam's parents, near strangers when they marry in violence-torn Ethiopia, spend most of the early years of their marriage separated, eventually reuniting in America, but their ensuing life together devolves into a mutual hatred that forces a contentious divorce. Three decades later, Jonas, himself moving toward a divorce, retraces his parents' fateful honeymoon road trip from Peoria, Ill., to Nashville in an attempt to understand an upbringing that turned him into a man who has "gone numb as a tactical strategy" and become a fluent and inveterate liar—a skill that comes in handy at his job at an immigration agency, where he embellishes African immigrants' stories so that they might be granted asylum. Mengestu draws a haunting psychological portrait of recent immigrants to America, insecure and alienated, striving to fit in while mourning the loss of their cultural heritage and social status. Mengestu's precise and nuanced prose evokes characters, scenes, and emotions with an invigorating and unparalleled clarity. (Oct.)
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