Questions and Topics for Discussion
Dinaw Mengestu’s first novel, The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears, earned him comparisons to Bellow, Fitzgerald, and Naipaul, and garnered ecstatic critical praise for its haunting depiction of the immigrant experience in America. Now he enriches the themes that defined his debut in a novel that follows two generations of an immigrant family.
One September afternoon, Yosef and Mariam, Ethiopian immigrants who have spent all but their first year of marriage apart, set off on a road trip from their home in Peoria, Illinois, to Nashville, Tennessee, in search of a new identity as an American couple. Just months later, their son, Jonas, is born in Illinois. Thirty years later, Yosef has died, and Jonas is desperate to make sense of the volatile generational and cultural ties that have forged him. How can he envision his future without knowing what has come before? Leaving behind his marriage and his job in New York, Jonas sets out to retrace his parents’ trip and, in a stunning display of imagination, weaves together a family history that takes him from the war-torn Ethiopia of his parents’ youth to a brighter vision of his life in the America of today, a story—real or invented—that holds the possibility of reconciliation and redemption.
ABOUT DINAW MENGESTU
Dinaw Mengestu was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 1978. His first novel, The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears, received a 5 Under 35 award from the National Book Foundation, the Guardian First Book Prize, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize Art Seidenbaum Award, and was named a New York Times Notable Book, among other honors. He lives with his wife and son in Paris.