Photo credit: AFP PHOTO / Thomas Samson

In August 2019, we reported that the North American rights to Cameroonian novelist Imbolo Mbue’s second novel, How Beautiful We Were, had been acquired by Penguin Random House. UK and Commonwealth rights were acquired by Canongate books in October 2019. Now, we are excited to learn that Penguin Random House has finally provided a synopsis of the book:

From the celebrated author of the New York Times bestseller BEHOLD THE DREAMERS, comes a sweeping, wrenching story about the collision of a small African village and an America oil company.
“We should have known the end was near.”
So begins Imbolo Mbue’s devastating second novel, HOW BEAUTIFUL WE WERE. Set in the fictional African village of Kosawa, it tells the story of a people living in fear amidst environmental degradation wrought by an American oil company. Pipeline spills have rendered farmlands infertile. Children are dying from drinking toxic water. Promises of clean-up and financial reparations to the villagers are made—and ignored. The country’s government, led by a brazen dictator, exists to serve its own interest. Left with few choices, the people of Kosawa decide to fight back. Their struggle would last for decades and come at a steep price.
Told through the perspective of a generation of children and the family of a girl named Thula who grows up to become a revolutionary, HOW BEAUTIFUL WE WERE is a masterful exploration of what happens when the reckless drive for profit, coupled with the ghost of colonialism, comes up against one community’s determination to hold onto its ancestral land and a young woman’s willingness to sacrifice everything for the sake of her people’s freedom.
The cover of How Beautiful We Were has also been released.
Mbue made headlines in 2014 when she received a million-dollar advance for her debut, initially titled The Longings of Jende Jonga and eventually Behold the Dreamers. Mbue was the first African writer to achieve this feat. Published in 2016, Behold the Dreamers went on to win the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction and was included as an Oprah Winfrey’s Book Club read in 2017.  Mbue was also the first author to be featured as part of Brittle Paper‘s The Ask Series.
How Beautiful We Were will be released on June 16, 2020, and is available for pre-order wherever books are sold.
Brittle Paper congratulates Imbolo Mbue!