It was the title of this book that suckered me in. I love this. The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears. It makes me get all A Thousand Splendid Suns and Cry, The Beloved Country and so on, but then I really want the book to be something splendid, something beloved, something beautiful.
The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears – Dinaw Mengestu
And it was wholly unremarkable.
It wasn’t bad. It was, in fact, entirely inoffensive. There was nothing at all to hate about this book. The writing was capable, the characters were multi-dimensional…but I just feel totally sort of whatever about it.
Ok, so we’ve got Sepha Stephanos, owner of one of those shoddy little grocery stores downtown that sells stale muffins and 1-ply toilet paper, and then his two buddies Joseph and Kenneth who, like him, fled Africa decades ago and now work crummy jobs. And then Judith, the white woman, and Naomi, her mixed-race daughter, who move in next door to Stephanos. And there’s the usual awkwardness and romantic tension, but it sort of peters out before it gets going, and you know even before it happens that it isn’t going to work, because the chronology is hopping all over the place. So there’s no surprise there. And then the book just kind of sputters and dies.
Le sigh. I really wanted this to be good. And maybe it’s because I’m white and middle-class, and I like reading about refugees fleeing war-torn countries because it makes me grateful, and there wasn’t nearly as much fleeing or war-torn country as the back flap of the book led me to believe I’d be getting. Or any at all, really. Or maybe I just wanted to give a damn, and I didn’t. So…well…on to the next.