Happiness

Aminatta Forna. Atlantic Monthly, $26 (320p) ISBN 978-0-8021-27556
This elegant novel from Forna (The Memory of Love) opens with a chance encounter: Ghanaian psychiatrist Attila Asare and American urban wildlife biologist Jean Turane collide while walking across London’s Waterloo Bridge. Normally dispatched to war zones for his expertise in post-traumatic stress disorder, Attila is in town to speak at a conference. Jean lives there and researches the city’s foxes. After a second encounter on the bridge, Attila offers to buy Jean a drink at his hotel bar and reveals that he had a secondary reason to come to London: to locate the teenage son of a friend who might have been swept up by immigration officials. Jean volunteers to help and eventually organizes a search to find the young runaway. A diverse cast of supporting characters (many of whom are West African immigrants) and Forna’s rich descriptions of London make the novel potent and immersive. With their professional expertise and contemplative personalities, the protagonists offer wisdom on the nature of cruelty, the fear of the untamable, and the challenge of defining normality. The occasional bit of awkward dialogue and a convoluted plot will strain some readers’ patience. Despite a reliance on coincidence to drive her narrative, Forna’s gift for characterization allows her to ask genuine, practical questions about the delicate problems of the human condition in this ambitious novel. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/2018
Release date: 03/01/2018
Genre: Fiction
Ebook - 978-0-8021-6557-2
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