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The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears

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The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears Cover

ISBN13: 9781594482854
ISBN10: 1594482853
Condition: Standard
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Awards

Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize — Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction
Winner of the Guardian First Book Prize
Finalist for the Young Lions Fiction Award
Winner of the National Book Foundation's "5 Under 35" Award
Recipient of a Lannan Literary Fellowship
Winner of the Prix du Premier Roman

Review-A-Day

"The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears is wonderfully written and moving. It gives personality and depth to the oft-mocked immigrant deli owner (Apu, anyone?) and draws a portrait of someone all readers can relate to. The story is carried by the wry humor of the observations that Stephanos and his friends make about life in America, and it's in those moments that Mengetsu does his best and most surprising work." Anya C. Yurchyshyn, Esquire (read the entire Esquire review)

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

A literary debut hailed by the New York Times Book Review as a great American novel. Seventeen years ago, Sepha Stephanos fled the Ethiopian Revolution for a new start in the United States. Now he finds himself running a failing grocery store in a poor African-American section of Washington, D.C., his only companions two fellow African immigrants who share his bitter nostalgia and longing for his home continent. Years ago and worlds away Sepha could never have imagined a life of such isolation. As his environment begins to change, hope comes in the form of a friendship with new neighbors Judith and Naomi, a white woman and her biracial daughter. But when a series of racial incidents disturbs the community, Sepha may lose everything all over again.

Review:

"Barely suppressed despair and black wit infuse this beautifully observed debut from Ethiopian émigré Mengestu. Set over eight months in a gentrifying Washington, D.C., neighborhood in the 1970s, it captures an uptick in Ethiopian grocery store owner Sepha Stephanos's long-deferred hopes, as Judith, a white academic, fixes up the four-story house next to his apartment building, treats him to dinner and lets him steal a kiss. Just as unexpected is Sepha's friendship with Judith's biracial 11-year-old daughter, Naomi (one of the book's most vivid characters), over a copy of The Brothers Karamazov. Mengestu adds chiaroscuro with the story of Stephanos's 17-year exile from his family and country following his father's murder by revolutionary soldiers. After long days in the dusty, barely profitable shop, Sepha's two friends, Joseph from Congo and Kenneth from Kenya, joke with Sepha about African dictators and gently mock his romantic aspirations, while the neighborhood's loaded racial politics hang over Sepha and Judith's burgeoning relationship like a sword of Damocles. The novel's dirge-like tone may put off readers looking for the next Kite Runner, but Mengestu's assured prose and haunting set pieces (especially a series of letters from Stephanos's uncle to Jimmy Carter, pleading that he respect 'the deep friendship between our two countries') are heart-rending and indelible." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"One of the glories of the literature of exile is the sharp outlines a writer can bring to the contours of his adoptive society. For readers who were born in the writer's host country, such literature can uncover things that might otherwise be obscured by familiarity. Dinaw Mengestu's praiseworthy first novel, 'The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears,' draws upon this principle. Take, for example, this... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review)

Review:

"The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears takes us effortlessly through impressive changes of theme and mood....This is a great African novel, a great Washington novel and a great American novel." Rob Nixon, The New York Times Book Review

Review:

"Mengestu, himself an Ethiopian immigrant, engages the reader in a deftly drawn portrait of dreams in the face of harsh realities from the perspective of immigrants." Booklist

Review:

"Mengestu skirts immigrant-literature cliches and paints a beautiful portrait of a complex, conflicted man struggling with questions of love andloyalty. A nuanced slice of immigrant life." Kirkus Reviews

Review:

"[A] poignant story providing food for thought for those concerned with poverty and immigration....Recommended." Library Journal

Review:

"The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears is not a conventional immigrant novel....Mengestu has something more ambitious and fundamentally unsettling in mind." Chicago Tribune

Review:

"[Mengestu's] straightforward language and his low-key voice combine to make a compelling narrative, one that loops back in time yet seems to move forward with an even pace." Dallas Morning News

Review:

"This novel...covers a lot of ground: race relations...and gentrification and what it means to leave your past behind as you look for a future." Oregonian

Review:

"For anyone who's caught the gaze of a foreign-born waiter or cabdriver and wished for a deeper understanding of his half-glimpsed life, reading fiction is one way to crack open the dusty window that often separates us....[A] deeply felt novel that deserves to be read." San Francisco Chronicle

Review:

"Mengestu also has a sense of humor that is pitch perfect, falling between complete despair and pure sarcasm." Los Angeles Times

Review:

"Mengestu has told a rich and lyrical story of displacement and loneliness. I was profoundly moved by this tale of an Ethiopian immigrant’s search for acceptance, peace, and identity. Some of the passages in Ethiopia are heartbreaking and almost unbearably painful. With effortless prose, Mengestu makes us feel this tortured soul’s longings, regrets, and in the end, his dreams of meaningful human connection." Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns

Synopsis:

Seventeen years ago, Sepha Stephanos fled the Ethiopian Revolution for a new start in the United States. Now he finds himself running a failing grocery store in a poor African-American neighborhood, longing for his home continent. When a series of racial incidents disturbs the community, Sepha may lose everything all over again.

Synopsis:

Before he can retire, Las Vegas detective Salazar is determined to solve a recent spate of murders. When he encounters a pair of conjoined twins with a container of blood near their car, hes sure he has apprehended the killers, and enlists the help of Dr. Sunil Singh, a South African transplant who specializes in the study of psychopaths. As Sunil tries to crack the twins, the implications of his research grow darker. Haunted by his betrayal of loved ones back home during apartheid, he seeks solace in the love of Asia, a prostitute with hopes of escaping that life. But Sunils own troubled past is fast on his heels in the form of a would-be assassin.

Suspenseful through the last page, The Secret History of Las Vegas is Chris Abanis most accomplished work to date, with his trademark visionary prose and a striking compassion for the inner lives of outsiders.

Synopsis:

Seventeen years ago, Sepha Stephanos fled the Ethiopian Revolution for a new start in the United States. Now he finds himself running a failing grocery store in a poor African-American section of Washington, D.C., his only companions two fellow African immigrants who share his bitter nostalgia and longing for his home continent. Years ago and worlds away Sepha could never have imagined a life of such isolation. As his environment begins to change, hope comes in the form of a friendship with new neighbors Judith and Naomi, a white woman and her biracial daughter. But when a series of racial incidents disturbs the community, Sepha may lose everything all over again.

Watch a QuickTime interview with Dinaw Mengestu about this book.

About the Author

Dinaw Mengestu was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 1978. In 1980, he and his family came to the United States. A graduate of Georgetown University and Columbia University's MFA program in fiction, he lives in New York City.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 3 comments:

josue, January 27, 2013 (view all comments by josue)
This book was by far my favorite read in 2012. Dinaw's words describe things so vividly that it hurts sometimes. This beautiful story touches on many issues ranging from immigrant identities, the American dream, and gentrification.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
Marcus, April 27, 2009 (view all comments by Marcus)
A few months ago, I stumbled upon the uncorrected (limited publication) of this book. Rarely do I read a book a second time; in this case I did when the final copy came out. I loved it. The second time was even better.
It is an exceptional, beautifully crafted Novel. Unforgettable novel.
This story is written very well the characters are so vivid and lovable all with human flaws and strengths, which make them very real. They live within us with unfulfilled dreams and hopes.
The author has done an excellent job to keep the story going keeping you in suspense and wanting to know what happen to the characters.
I found it charming, delightful, sometimes funny, and always intriguing I couldn't put it down.
A book every immigrant can relate to. It is one of the best books I read in the last few years. A must read to people that appreciate quality literature.
Dinaw Mengestu's talent as a storyteller is shown in this first novel. I look forward and hope to read more from him in the future.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(2 of 3 readers found this comment helpful)
Shoshana, October 5, 2008 (view all comments by Shoshana)
Some have said that this is a slow novel in which little happens. While I think these comments are true, they are not negative, and stopping there misses the point. Nor is it simply a story of the erosion of the immigrant's dream. Sepha Stephanos is not just an immigrant from Ethiopia who fled the war and didn't get the girl. The story is more subtle than that. Stephanos is paralyzed by memory and guilt. This guilt isn't just because of what he did and didn't do in Ethiopia or the U.S.; it is the guilt of a survivor, the guilt that makes simply being alive an almost unbearable burden. The circles of Washington, D.C.'s roads are the circles of Dante's hell (alluded to in the title). As in The Ministry of Pain, what nostalgia the immigrant can muster is impaired and tainted by the memories of war. Stephanos's flat guardedness is the point of his story, and perhaps his downfall as well.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(4 of 7 readers found this comment helpful)
View all 3 comments

Product Details

ISBN:
9781594482854
Author:
Mengestu, Dinaw
Publisher:
Riverhead Books
Author:
Abani, Chris
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Race relations
Subject:
United states
Subject:
Washington, d. c.
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Subject:
Psychological
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
February 2008
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
from 12
Language:
English
Pages:
240
Dimensions:
7.75 x 5.06 in 1 lb
Age Level:
from 18

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Related Subjects


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The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$6.50 In Stock
Product details 240 pages Riverhead Books - English 9781594482854 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Barely suppressed despair and black wit infuse this beautifully observed debut from Ethiopian émigré Mengestu. Set over eight months in a gentrifying Washington, D.C., neighborhood in the 1970s, it captures an uptick in Ethiopian grocery store owner Sepha Stephanos's long-deferred hopes, as Judith, a white academic, fixes up the four-story house next to his apartment building, treats him to dinner and lets him steal a kiss. Just as unexpected is Sepha's friendship with Judith's biracial 11-year-old daughter, Naomi (one of the book's most vivid characters), over a copy of The Brothers Karamazov. Mengestu adds chiaroscuro with the story of Stephanos's 17-year exile from his family and country following his father's murder by revolutionary soldiers. After long days in the dusty, barely profitable shop, Sepha's two friends, Joseph from Congo and Kenneth from Kenya, joke with Sepha about African dictators and gently mock his romantic aspirations, while the neighborhood's loaded racial politics hang over Sepha and Judith's burgeoning relationship like a sword of Damocles. The novel's dirge-like tone may put off readers looking for the next Kite Runner, but Mengestu's assured prose and haunting set pieces (especially a series of letters from Stephanos's uncle to Jimmy Carter, pleading that he respect 'the deep friendship between our two countries') are heart-rending and indelible." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review A Day" by , "The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears is wonderfully written and moving. It gives personality and depth to the oft-mocked immigrant deli owner (Apu, anyone?) and draws a portrait of someone all readers can relate to. The story is carried by the wry humor of the observations that Stephanos and his friends make about life in America, and it's in those moments that Mengetsu does his best and most surprising work." (read the entire Esquire review)
"Review" by , "The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears takes us effortlessly through impressive changes of theme and mood....This is a great African novel, a great Washington novel and a great American novel."
"Review" by , "Mengestu, himself an Ethiopian immigrant, engages the reader in a deftly drawn portrait of dreams in the face of harsh realities from the perspective of immigrants."
"Review" by , "Mengestu skirts immigrant-literature cliches and paints a beautiful portrait of a complex, conflicted man struggling with questions of love andloyalty. A nuanced slice of immigrant life."
"Review" by , "[A] poignant story providing food for thought for those concerned with poverty and immigration....Recommended."
"Review" by , "The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears is not a conventional immigrant novel....Mengestu has something more ambitious and fundamentally unsettling in mind."
"Review" by , "[Mengestu's] straightforward language and his low-key voice combine to make a compelling narrative, one that loops back in time yet seems to move forward with an even pace."
"Review" by , "This novel...covers a lot of ground: race relations...and gentrification and what it means to leave your past behind as you look for a future."
"Review" by , "For anyone who's caught the gaze of a foreign-born waiter or cabdriver and wished for a deeper understanding of his half-glimpsed life, reading fiction is one way to crack open the dusty window that often separates us....[A] deeply felt novel that deserves to be read."
"Review" by , "Mengestu also has a sense of humor that is pitch perfect, falling between complete despair and pure sarcasm."
"Review" by , "Mengestu has told a rich and lyrical story of displacement and loneliness. I was profoundly moved by this tale of an Ethiopian immigrant’s search for acceptance, peace, and identity. Some of the passages in Ethiopia are heartbreaking and almost unbearably painful. With effortless prose, Mengestu makes us feel this tortured soul’s longings, regrets, and in the end, his dreams of meaningful human connection."
"Synopsis" by , Seventeen years ago, Sepha Stephanos fled the Ethiopian Revolution for a new start in the United States. Now he finds himself running a failing grocery store in a poor African-American neighborhood, longing for his home continent. When a series of racial incidents disturbs the community, Sepha may lose everything all over again.
"Synopsis" by ,
Before he can retire, Las Vegas detective Salazar is determined to solve a recent spate of murders. When he encounters a pair of conjoined twins with a container of blood near their car, hes sure he has apprehended the killers, and enlists the help of Dr. Sunil Singh, a South African transplant who specializes in the study of psychopaths. As Sunil tries to crack the twins, the implications of his research grow darker. Haunted by his betrayal of loved ones back home during apartheid, he seeks solace in the love of Asia, a prostitute with hopes of escaping that life. But Sunils own troubled past is fast on his heels in the form of a would-be assassin.

Suspenseful through the last page, The Secret History of Las Vegas is Chris Abanis most accomplished work to date, with his trademark visionary prose and a striking compassion for the inner lives of outsiders.

"Synopsis" by ,
Seventeen years ago, Sepha Stephanos fled the Ethiopian Revolution for a new start in the United States. Now he finds himself running a failing grocery store in a poor African-American section of Washington, D.C., his only companions two fellow African immigrants who share his bitter nostalgia and longing for his home continent. Years ago and worlds away Sepha could never have imagined a life of such isolation. As his environment begins to change, hope comes in the form of a friendship with new neighbors Judith and Naomi, a white woman and her biracial daughter. But when a series of racial incidents disturbs the community, Sepha may lose everything all over again.

Watch a QuickTime interview with Dinaw Mengestu about this book.

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