cover image In the Company of Men

In the Company of Men

Véronique Tadjo. Other Press, $14.99 trade paper (176p) ISBN 978-1-63542-095-1

Tadjo’s resonant, unflinching latest (after Far from My Father) delves into the West African ebola crisis of the mid-2010s and how it played out in a region devastated by trauma and loss. As personal and humane as it is biblically grand, with references to Mary Magdalene’s visits to Jesus’s tomb, the novel follows a wide array of narrators, including a young woman sent away from her village to avoid the early ravages of the virus, a distressed NGO volunteer who is eager to help, teams of doctors attempting to contain the wider crisis while caring for individual patients, the infected fighting for their lives, and the bystanders hoping it will not happen to them. Over all of these voices looms another: that of the ancient baobab tree that has watched over people for generations and provides a vast sense of scale as it comments on the region’s history of devastation. Tadjo humanizes the crisis, and the most resonant scenes bear witness to the virus as it spreads in “silence, a thick, threatening silence, auguring even more harrowing days to come.” Brief and haunting, this makes for a timely testament to the destructive powers of pandemics. (Feb.)