cover image And Then Life Happens

And Then Life Happens

Auma Obama, trans. from the German by Ross Benjamin. St. Martin's Press, $25.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-250-01005-6

No doubt much of the interest in this engrossing memoir stems from the fact that the author is President Barack Obama's half-sister. As covered extensively in the news, the two spent their childhoods with different parents, in different parts of the world, and met for the first time in the 1980s, when they were both in their 20s. But stories about that now-famous brother who, as a child, Auma was "never particularly curious about," make up only a small part of the book. Most of it focuses on Auma's life growing up in the remote, "unassuming" Kenyan village of Alego Nyangoma; attending college at both the University of Heidelberg and University of Bayreuth in Germany; and later making the decision to return to Africa to help Kenyan children achieve the same "possibilities" she saw available to children in Britain. Especially poignant are the sections that tell how, as a college student, Auma finally got to know the mother who relinquished her as a baby. Despite the level of recognition Auma achieved during the 2008 presidential election, there are no airs here. The prose is simple, and Auma's honest, straightforward storytelling makes her an instantly likeable narrator. Originally written in German%E2%80%94the language Auma said came "more easily" because of the "formative adult years" she spent in Germany%E2%80%94the book was smoothly translated by Ross Benjamin who, as Auma notes, successfully captured her voice and vision. Color photos. (May)