Small Country

Gaël Faye, trans. from the French by Sarah Ardizzone. Hogarth, $25 (192p) ISBN 978-1-5247-5987-2
Faye debuts a precise and potent voice in his deeply affecting novel about coming of age during the mid-1990s Tutsi genocide. Ten-year-old Gabriel has a peaceful, mischievous childhood marred only by the growing rift between his French father and Rwandan mother. He and his friends roam the streets of their well-heeled neighborhood in the Burundi capital of Bujumbura, stealing mangos and avoiding the bully Francis; Gabriel daydreams about moving to France to be with his pen pal crush Laure. But then Burundi’s first democratic elections in 1993 sputter into a military coup, while rumors of impending civil war across the border in Rwanda stoke ethnic tensions among Gabriel’s peers and the entire city. Gabriel’s mother crosses the border to seek news of her Tutsi family and returns traumatized; Gabriel retreats into voracious reading as his friends get involved with guerrilla warfare. Faye includes a range of individuals representing the economic and racial complexities of postcolonial Africa. The most powerful moments come as Gabriel stumbles through processing his alarming new realities with delayed understanding. The juxtaposition of everyday growing pains and the fallout from atrocities is heightened by Faye’s lovely prose, which builds a heartrending portrait of the end of childhood. (June)
Reviewed on: 04/30/2018
Release date: 06/05/2018
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 192 pages - 978-1-5247-5988-9
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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