In the wake of his heart-wrenching memoir "A Long Way Gone," Ishmael Beah has returned to Sierra Leone in his debut novel, a sometimes-quiet story that still maintains an overwhelming poignancy throughout. "Radiance of Tomorrow" explores what it means to return to one’s war-ravaged home – stripped of possessions, of family, of limbs – and to try to forge into the future. Seven years after the end of the civil war that devastated their homes and their families, the people of Imperi start to trickle back to their hometown to restore their lives and their hope.
While the immediate danger of ruthless soldiers has subsided, the people of Imperi do not lack hardships or reasons for fear. Not long after their homecoming, they find themselves overrun by foreigners wishing to mine their land for minerals. The miners are often cruel, stirring up trouble among the locals, and ultimately, many of the townspeople are forced to go work in these mines to avoid watching their families starve. Even though death and tragedy haunt the people of this story time and again, their unyieldingly resilient, hopeful spirits are inspiring.
"Radiance of Tomorrow" is an apt title that captures both the optimism and the beautiful writing of this novel. In the Author’s Note at the beginning, Beah expresses the importance of the oral tradition of storytelling in the village where he grew up and his desire to infuse his novel with the richness of the languages of Sierra Leone. Even in some of the slower sections of the novel, this richness comes forth and offers the reader a vivid sense of place and a uniting of humanity. The language harbors the soul of this novel, resonating in the reader long after its final promising, but undeniably real moments.