cover image The Atlas of Forgotten Places

The Atlas of Forgotten Places

Jenny D. Williams. St. Martin’s/Dunne, $26.99 (368p) ISBN 978-1-250-12293-3

Gritty and intricately plotted, Williams’ debut novel, set in the war-torn Uganda of 2008, gets under the surface of recent political turmoil and the relationship between East Africa and Western aid organizations. Alternating chapters follow Sabine, a former aid worker who has returned to Uganda from Germany to look for her missing niece, Lily, and Rose, an Acholi woman who has a past with Lord’s Resistance Army and bears physical and emotional scars from her war experiences. When it turns out that Rose’s lover Ocen has disappeared with Lily, she and Sabine form an unlikely rescue group, accompanied by Christoph, a cultural anthropologist studying in Rose’s town. Their search will bring them into dangerous territory where a surprise military offensive against the LRA has recently forced the rebels from hiding. In the midst of struggles and atrocities so large and all-encompassing, the narrative sometimes gets away from the more interesting personal stories. But overall Williams’s book paints the contours of the real-life conflict admirably, making the thrilling disappearance story relatable with nuanced characterizations and a wealth of strong subplots concerning reclaiming love, protecting family, and guarding hope for a new future when the present seems to be teetering on disaster. Agent: Marly Rusoff, Marly Rusoff & Associates. (July)