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The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears

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Format: Hardcover

Condition: Like New

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Book Overview

Seventeen years ago, Sepha Stephanos fled the Ethiopian Revolution for a new start in the United States. Now he finds himself running a failing grocery store in a poor African-American section of... This description may be from another edition of this product.

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Melancholy and gently humorous . . .

The central character and narrator of this melancholy novel, Sepha, is a 30-something Ethiopian immigrant, living in Washington, DC, in a run-down neighborhood that is suddenly showing signs of gentrification. After 17 years in the States, he has long since reached the point of accepting his fate - an endless exile from the country of his birth and the mother and younger brother who survived the revolution that he himself escaped at the age of 19. A shopkeeper now, operating a little market, he lacks the drive that makes model immigrants of others and thus barely makes ends meet - less than barely. Except for two friends, Ken and Joe, also African immigrants, he leads a lonely and listless life. By contrast, Ken an engineer from Kenya, strives steadily to adapt himself to the American pursuit of material success; Joe, a waiter in a high-class restaurant, is a closet epic poet, obsessed with the political debacle of his own country, Congo. The friendship of these three single men is poignant and often quietly amusing, and they pass the time with ironic reminders of how their lives in America have been like an escape from Dante's hell (the title is a reference to the closing lines of "The Inferno"). Enter a well-off white woman, an academic with a school-age daughter. When she buys and renovates a house in the neighborhood, she sparks a feint romantic interest in Sepha, as well as the resentment of the welfare-check neighbors being evicted as rents suddenly begin to soar. The resulting events make for a wistful account of people traumatized by brutal political upheavals, and washing up in the land of freedom and opportunity, where lives settle into a kind of permanent holding pattern. Beautifully written, with a quiet charm that finds rueful laughter in sadness and loss. Readers may also appreciate Hisham Matar's "In the Country of Men."

Simply Beautiful

This is a wonderful debut novel, expertly crafted and beautifully written. It is the story of Stepha Stephanos, an immigrant from Ethiopia now a small-time shopkeeper in Washington, D.C., as he comes to terms with his past and the death of his father in Africa, his life as an immigrant and what he has become, living and working in the run down Logan Circle neighborhood, and the love that might have been but never will be. Together with his two African friends, one from Kenya and one from the Congo, we look through the eyes of Africans in America and how they try to make sense of their chaotic homeland. I am not African, but I work in Washington and found many observations about this city that are dead on. Mengestu has written a book with a little something for everyone, about living the small life in a great city (though it's set in Washington, there is not one politician or lawyer in the book), about young people trying to make lives of their own and make sense of family history, about finding love in the most unexpected place and knowing that it will never work out. Oh yes, and about being an immigrant.

The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears by Dinaw Mengestu

What a great first novel! I could relate to his characters myself. Having being born in Addis Ababa, and immigrated to the United States, it was great to hear a common voice whom I can share with the alienation, the hopes, the desire to belonging. What a fantastic story to described all these deep feelings in a novel. Can't wait to read his next book!!!!!

quality novel, must read..

A few months ago, I stumbled upon the uncorrected (limited publication) of this book. Rarely do I read a book a second time; in this case I did when the final copy came out. I loved it. The second time was even better. It is an exceptional, beautifully crafted Novel. Unforgettable novel. This story is written very well the characters are so vivid and lovable all with human flaws and strengths, which make them very real. They live within us with unfulfilled dreams and hopes. The author has done an excellent job to keep the story going keeping you in suspense and wanting to know what happen to the characters. I found it charming, delightful, sometimes funny, and always intriguing I couldn't put it down. A book every immigrant can relate to. It is one of the best books I read in the last few years. A must read to people that appreciate quality literature. Dinaw Mengestu's talent as a storyteller is shown in this first novel. I look forward and hope to read more from him in the future.

Beautifully and powerfly written

It is rare that I finish a book, only to begin to read it over again the next day. That's what happened when I finished Dinaw Mengestu's first novel, The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears. Mengestu's writing allowed me to visualize nearly every scene and get to know several of the characters in the novel as if I'd been their friend for years. I could picture Judith's house and Sepha's store. My heart went out to Sepha's Uncle Berhane, who spent years writing letters about his country to congressmen and presidents, and saving copies of his correspondence. His writing is not forced nor flowery nor full of words an average reader needs to look up in a dictionary. His writing is conversational and accessible, yet he tells a powerful story with those words.
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