Saturday, August 1, 2009

Is that the what?

I just finished listening to Dave Eggers' What is the What yesterday. It has always intrigued me when I've seen it in the library-- the title and the cover. I decided the fastest why I'd get through it would be to listen to it. It is amazing. I admit I didn't know much about the Lost Boys of Sudan, nor do I really understand the conflict in the region. But it's not necessary to enjoy this book. Valentino's trek to Ethiopia and then Kenya is sad but compelling. His way of referring to people (TV Boy, Quiet Baby, Christian Neighbors) is so simple yet logical. While the action of the story goes on, Valentino describes his time fleeing his home in Sudan. It is basically one large flashback grounded in his life in Atlanta where he is not really known. He tells his story so we know where he comes from. He also addresses people indirectly to tell his story ("I was like you, TV Boy...) As usual, I don't want to go too much into the book because I feel like it should be experienced without my personal slant on it. I loved it, though, and I didn't think I would. If you know nothing about the conflicts in Sudan, fear not, Blog Reader. Stripped down, it is a bildungsroman (thank you 11th grade English teacher Ms. Smith). However, Valentino's coming of age is a much longer path (literally) than any you have ever heard of and, while full of hardship, is ultimately quite triumphant. I loved how the book ended...I will not reveal, but it gave me a real sense of perseverance. Also, it ended logically, not tied up in a neat little bow.

Dion Graham is the audiobook's narrator and brings the book to life so much that I felt that this wasn't a book I was listening to, it was someone telling me a story directly. As if it was just told to me. Graham is in "The Wire," which I don't watch but I hear is really good.

Valentino Achak Deng, the Sudanese refugee who is the book's protagonist, is a real person. The book is billed as a novel, but it is based on Valentino's life. He runs a foundation called the Valentino Achak Deng Foundation that rebuilds Sudanese communities that have been decimated by the war.

A great read or listen! One of my top for the year so far, I think.

Ex libris,


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