Synopses & Reviews
For fans of Dave Eggers, Teju Cole, and James McBride, comes this extraordinary novel of morality and the redemptive powers of art that offers a glimpse into an African underworld rarely described in fiction.
Meet Bingo, the greatest drug runner in the slums of Kibera, Nairobi, and maybe the world. A teenage grifter, often mistaken for a younger boy, he faithfully serves Wolf, the drug lord of Kibera. Bingo spends his days throwing rocks at Krazi Hari, the prophet of Kibera’s garbage mound, “lipping” safari tourists of their cash, and hanging out with his best friend, Slo-George, a taciturn fellow whose girth is a mystery to Bingo in a place where there is never enough food. Bingo earns his keep by running “white” to a host of clients, including Thomas Hunsa, a reclusive artist whose paintings, rooted in African tradition, move him. But when Bingo witnesses a drug-related murder and Wolf sends him to an orphanage for “protection,” Bingo’s life changes and he learns that life itself is the “run.”
A modern trickster tale that draws on African folklore, Bingo’s Run is a wildly original, often very funny, and always moving story of a boy alone in a corrupt and dangerous world who must depend on his wits and inner resources to survive.
ONE OF LIBRARY JOURNAL’S OUTSTANDING NEW VOICES TO CONSIDER
“Bingo’s voice guides us; by turns he is aggressive, confident, smart, cynical, but also naive. Bingo tosses his observations at us with great urgency, almost percussively, in a staccato manner that recalls gunshots. And though he’s blunt, he’s also a sensitive observer. . . . Levine is creating a sense of an entire world, raffish and fast. . . . The larger story Levine is telling . . . is the story of a person’s mind, and of the good, bad, and indifferent forces that make him what he is—and that story is told with compassion and intelligence.”—The Boston Globe
“James A. Levine is a deeply gifted writer who reaches into the dirt, sweat, and diesel of modern-day Nairobi and introduces us to a young innocent whose adventures are unforgettable. Bingo’s runs between joy and death, laughter and sorrow, survival and redemption, will make you feel like cheering.”—James McBride, author of The Good Lord Bird and The Color of Water
“Bingo’s Run is one of those rare books that infuse a potentially difficult subject with intimacy, tenderness, and humor. Social commentary, gritty comedy, and pure cinematic adrenaline meet in an utterly compelling novel with a voice all its own.”—Tash Aw, author of Five Star Billionaire
“Bingo’s Run manages to read like timely news and high adventure at the same time. Levine’s main character, Bingo, is an underage drug runner, hardened orphan, and hustler extraordinaire. He’s also funny and wise well beyond his years. The rousing story of Bingo’s evolution is matched only by Levine’s portrait of modern-day Nairobi, both child and city depicted with real flair and affection.”—Victor LaValle, author of The Devil in Silver
“Bingo is a fascinating and inimitably likable character. Levine, a Mayo clinic professor of medicine and well-known child advocate, excels at telling his adventurous, comic, and realistically gritty story with humor but not with pathos, successfully addressing the harsh and sometimes tragic story of a child at risk.”—Library Journal
"Bingo Mwolo, the charismatic narrator of the second novel from Levine (The Blue Notebook), will proudly tell you he's the best drug runner in all Kibera. His youthful appearance Bingo is 15 but looks 10 helps him travel below the radar of the corrupt local police force, as he cons his way through Nairobi's potholed streets, trafficking 'white' to residents and tourists alike. But when Bingo is the sole witness to the killing of Boss Jonni, the area's biggest cocaine supplier, Bingo's already-dangerous life becomes even more harrowing. Caught in the center of a drug world power grab, Bingo must also contend with Father Matthew, head of the local orphanage, who's selling more than the word of God, and Chief Gihilihili, the peg-legged police chief with a horror film's sense of justice. And then there's Thomas Hunsa, drug client and local painter. Hunsa just might be Bingo's ticket to riches if only the young con man can convince everyone he's not just the best runner, but also the best art dealer in Nairobi. Levine sets much of his latest in Kibera's back allies and slums, but he doesn't dwell there. By telling the novel from the perspective of this charming teen grifter, Levine makes his story feel substantial while also quite fun, significant even as the pages turn themselves." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Born and educated in England, James A. Levine is a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic who has worked with impoverished children in the United States and internationally for more than thirty years. He has won more than fifty major awards in science, consulted to numerous governments, and lectures to humanitarian groups around the world. He is the author of the novel The Blue Notebook.