"Imbolo Mbue found critical acclaim with her first novel, Behold the Dreamers; with her second, she proves once again that she is a literary force to reckon with. How Beautiful We Were is the story of a small, fictional African village whose water is poisoned and whose children are dying as an American oil company ravages the land for profit. When their pleas for help go unanswered, the village’s people decide to fight back. Using a kaleidoscope of points of view, Mbue turns the village itself into a character, multifaceted and endlessly complex, to illustrate the ways in which environmental destruction and colonialism are inseparably intertwined. This book is a wonder: It will make you sad, it will make you angry, it will make you want to change the world."
From the celebrated author of the New York Times bestseller Behold the Dreamers comes a sweeping, wrenching story about the collision of a small African village and an American oil company.
“A novel with the richness and power of a great contemporary fable, and a heroine for our time.” —Sigrid Nunez, author of The Friend, winner of the National Book Award
We should have known the end was near.
So begins Imbolo Mbue’s powerful second novel, How Beautiful We Were. Set in the fictional African village of Kosawa, it tells of a people living in fear amid environmental degradation wrought by an American oil company. Pipeline spills have rendered farmlands infertile. Children are dying from drinking toxic water. Promises of cleanup and financial reparations to the villagers are made—and ignored. The country’s government, led by a brazen dictator, exists to serve its own interests. Left with few choices, the people of Kosawa decide to fight back. Their struggle will last for decades and come at a steep price.
Told from the perspective of a generation of children and the family of a girl named Thula who grows up to become a revolutionary, How Beautiful We Were is a masterful exploration of what happens when the reckless drive for profit, coupled with the ghost of colonialism, comes up against one community’s determination to hold on to its ancestral land and a young woman’s willingness to sacrifice everything for the sake of her people’s freedom.