cover image A Trail of Crab Tracks

A Trail of Crab Tracks

Patrice Nganang, trans. from the French by Amy B. Reid. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $30 (432p) ISBN 978-0-374-60298-7

Family dynamics and the siren song of a war-torn homeland play out in Nganang’s elegant, involving latest (after When the Plums Are Ripe). In 2013, Nithap moves to New Jersey to stay with his son, Tanou, and his family, after a long career as a doctor in his native Cameroon. Tanou struggles to connect with Nithap, who has his own trouble settling in, though he eventually finds kindred spirits in Tanou’s older married neighbors, a retired American poet and Frenchwoman. A road trip exploring monuments of the American Civil War only amplifies the bewilderment of “Old Papa.” Flashbacks involve Nithap’s travails in Cameroon under French rule, where he fought in the 1960 revolution that led to Cameroon's independence. Then, Tanou returns alone to Cameroon after his mother dies, to retrace his father’s history. The story moves fluidly through time and location, providing juicy juxtapositions. Nganang’s genius is in his ability to express the personal and the panoramic with equal artistry. Both intimate and sweeping, this epic brings a satisfying and profound closure to historic events. (June)