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Book review: 'All Our Names' by Dinaw Mengestu

All Our Names by Dinaw Mengestu
All Our Names by Dinaw Mengestu
Random House

Dinaw Mengestu is a critically acclaimed writer and the recipient of several prestigious awards, including a 2012 MacArthur Foundation genius grant, for his works in both fiction and nonfiction. His newest novel, "All Our Names," will be released in early March. As in many of his previous works, this novel spans the distance from Africa to America as it follows the stories of two young men in Uganda, one of whom eventually escapes to Midwest America.

This captivating story is told from alternating perspectives and times. The first narrator is one of the two young men, telling the tale of his time in Uganda and his relationship with his charismatic friend. They are both aspiring university students who get swept up in a dangerous revolutionary plot. As one gets more deeply involved in the political movement, the other is able to evade danger and take refuge in small-town America. The second narrator is a woman who develops a relationship with the young man who escapes to her town. Set in the 1970s, this new couple faces many hardships that originate not only from the intolerance of their time, but also from the dark secrets of the young man’s past.

Mengestu handles the shifting views very gracefully, and the transitions keep the novel moving along at a nice pace. "All Our Names" is powerful, lyrical, and ultimately very thought-provoking.