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The Civilized World: A Novel in Stories Paperback – March 29, 2011
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From Publishers Weekly
In this smart, urbane debut, characters strive for understanding within a cacophonous modern landscape. Two parallel but conflicting stories open and close the collection, to moving effect: Adjoa and her twin brother, Kojo, are migrant workers from Ghana, having lived for 12 years in the Ivory Coast, saving up to make enough money to return and start a hair salon. Adjoa is serious and single-minded about her mission, but Kojo's impatience at gaining fast money prompts him to get involved in the robbery of the home of Adjoa's wealthy American employer, Janice. The reckless act ends tragically, and Adjoa has to carry a heavy load of guilt back to Accra, where she opens her salon and tries to find a good husband who won't take advantage of her or her business. Elsewhere, Janice reappears on a road trip in the Central African Republic and at an Ethiopian orphanage, where she intends to adopt a child on her own. Wyss offers nuanced takes on vastly different corners of Africa, transcending travelogue to achieve resonant narratives—sometimes funny, sometimes stark—with both grit and heart. (Apr.)
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“In The Civilized World, almost all the characters live, whether from choice or necessity, between countries and cultures. I am full of admiration for how vividly Susi Wyss brings Africa to life and for the empathy with which she explores the longings of her characters, African and American, for children, home, money, work and family. A beautiful and timely book.”--Margot Livesey, author of The House on Fortune Street“
In this smart, urbane debut...Wyss offers nuanced takes on vastly different corners of Africa, transcending travelogue to achieve resonant narratives--sometimes funny, sometimes stark--with both grit and heart.”--Publishers Weekly
“[Wyss] beautifully and effortlessly captures the essence of human connection, demonstrating that despite the cultural and personal differences that separate individuals, we are often related by common threads.”—Library Journal
Top customer reviews
In addition to the realistic but generous depiction of her characters, Wyss has also succeeded beautifully in bringing the setting to life for the reader. In reading, we feel the wind move, smell pungent smells, feel the brush of a butterfly, feel the spray of a waterfall. We experience the delightful, like unusual names, and the comforting, like a conversation while having hair shampooed in a salon.
Reading the book is a treat. For readers who love warm and descriptive prose, musing on human nature, Africa, and have faith in the overall though complicated goodness of people (and especially women)...I bet this will be your favorite read of the year!
Our favorite story was the chapter also entitled The Civilized World because we have all encountered arrogant, judgmental cynics like Bruce who most of us would like to see brought down a peg. The author displays more faith in the human spirit as she holds out the hope that someday Bruce will learn to practice tolerance. The ladies encountered in The Precious Brother Salon reminded us of the characters in Alexander McCall Smith's series, The Ladies No. 1 Detective Agency.
In a moving personal note inscribed to us, Ms Wyss expressed the hope that her book would remind us of times we spent in Kenya on two church building mission trips, when we experienced unforgettable interactions with local residents of several Rift Valley villages. The Civilized World recalled poignant memories of the remarkable people of Kenya who welcomed us into their hearts and homes.
Most recent customer reviews
By Patricia Schultheis
This collection of nine interrelated short stories by Susi Wyss is a gem of a book that's as enjoyable for...Read more