I been trying to step out of my reading comfort zones by choosing books from less familiar authors, different genres and from different geographic areas. So when I read a review about this book by a relatively new author and set in a small dictatorship in Africa it was immediately appealing.
In the small African nation of Bwalo, everyone is getting ready for the Big Day, the one time of year when ailing King Tafumo makes an appearance during a grand celebration of of his rule. Celebrities are flown the buildings along the main thoroughfares are painted and cleaned up, and the government agencies suspend their normal work in order to prepare for the event. The Hotel Mirage is no exception and its staff and the various people who live, work or are related to it are the focus of our story.
Charlie, the child of the hotel’s manager and his wife. is obsessed with an with an old Dictaphone he was given. Apart from making his mother crazy with his incessant questions, Charlie has unbeknownst to his parents been using it to record and eavesdrop on people in the hotel, a habit that is more dangerous than he realizes.
Sean, is a local expat who wants to write the next great African novel, but has never been able to stay away from the hotel bar or his crazy girlfriend long enough to do so. He has been given one last chance by the editor of the local newspaper, who wants him to interview the celebrity, Truth, who has come to perform for the Big Day. Although it seems beneath his dignity, Sean is grateful for the work and realizes that he either needs to make some changes to his life soon or he will become a washed up has been.
Hope, the nurse who takes care of King Tafumo, knows that the king is king in name only. Addicted to morphine and slowly wasting away from illness, she has helped him keep up the facade of a king who cares for his people, but as the years have passed she has become resentful of how much keeping up this deception has affected her own choices and life.
Josef, the one who created the myth that paved the way for Tafumo’s revolution and Bwalo’s independence, has begun to realize that he is one of last remaining members of the group who put Tafumo in power. He keeps a file in his desk drawer with the names of those who have died in strange accidents or have just disappeared and never been heard from again. Paranoid and suspicious, he begins to fear for his own life and that of his son, Solomon’s.
Jack, is a low level smuggler who never quite made it into the big leagues even in a country rife with graft and corruption. But even he knows that the thing he has been tricked into smuggling is dangerous. All he can hope for is that he will not be caught with it before he can deliver it to his client at the Hotel Mirage, for if he is caught he will certainly die.
Funny and profound, disturbing and moving, this book was unexpected in almost every way. Glancy is gifted with the ability to create such a wide ranging set of believable characters who jump off the page. From paranoid, to drunk, to innocent, Glancy lets us inside these character’s minds and we see them in all their humanity. Charlie especially is delightfully portrayed.
Brenda’s Rating ****(4 Out of 5 Stars)
Recommend this book to: Ken, Keith Marian and Sharon
Book Study Worthy? Yes
Read in ebook format.