All Our Names Pdf Summary
All Our Names pdf book is the story of two young men who come of age during an African revolution, drawn from the safe confines of the university campus into the intensifying clamor of the streets outside. But as the line between idealism and violence becomes increasingly blurred, the friends are driven apart—one into the deepest peril, as the movement gathers inexorable force, and the other into the safety of exile in the American Midwest. There, pretending to be an exchange student, he falls in love with a social worker and settles into small-town life. Yet this idyll is inescapably darkened by the secrets of his past: the acts he committed and the work he left unfinished. Most of all, he is haunted by the beloved friend he left behind, the charismatic leader who first guided him to revolution and then sacrificed everything to ensure his freedom.
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All Our Names Review
5.0 out of 5 stars All Our Names is a beautifully written and refreshing book
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on November 11, 2018
All Our Names is a beautifully written and refreshing book. It alternates between different perspectives, one from Helen and the other from Isaac. Each of these chapters takes place at a different time and place. For example, Helen’s chapters take place in the United States and Isaac’s chapters take place in a war-torn Uganda. The time frames are also a bit confusing as Helen’s chapters take place sometime in the unnamed future and the Isaac chapters in the present/past. From the beginning, the reader is a bit confused, particularly on Isaac and who his friend is, who is given many different nicknames throughout the book. I found myself trying to figure out who Isaac was and if he was the same Isaac that is referred to in the Isaac chapter and continued to be confused throughout most of the novel. However, all questions the reader has gets resolved… but you must read the book to find out!
I constantly was just turning the pages to find out what would happen next. I spent a large part of the novel trying to figure out who Isaac was and came up with different theories and in the end, I was blown away (but I will spoil nothing!). This book explores a lot about identity, friendship, trust and love within the characters themselves and their relationships between each other. While the reader gets only two perspectives, Helen’s and Isaac’s, at times it feels as though I was still able to take in the perspectives of the other characters. The book seems simple, but it raises a lot more philosophical questions that go way beyond the actual narrative. This is something I really enjoyed about the novel because at many points throughout I stopped reading to think about what was going on and what it all meant in terms of the larger story that Mengistu is trying to say. It also provided a unique perspective as to what was going on within Uganda which going into the novel I did not know much about, so I thought that this was a unique aspect to the book. It combines the African experience with the American experience to explore the challenges that Isaac and Heen face throughout the novel.
In terms of African literature, I found this book to be very similar to Homegoing in the sense that it alternated perspectives and went from Africa to the United States, in terms of setting, every other chapter. There’s a similar feel to All Our Names as there is to Homegoing where you see the connection between the different characters and the different countries. If you enjoyed Homecoming, this is definitely the novel for you. It is easy to read but with simple words, speaks volumes towards friendship, love, and trust. Highly recommend this book!
5.0 out of 5 stars Book Review of All Our Names by Dinaw Mengestu
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on November 10, 2018
Book Review of All Our Names by Dinaw Mengestu
This book unfolds with an elegant complexity—always accessible, yet continuously surprising and refreshing. From the beginning, the reader is provided with two narrative strands and conflicting information on how to relate them together. Identities are rendered ambiguous, names change, and the narrative voices shift. Readers are asked to question their assumptions: Is Isaac really who I really think he is? What are the time frames of the two narratives? Where did these characters come from, and what led them here?
Nevertheless, All Our Names strikes this crucial balance between narrative satisfaction and lingering philosophical questions. Mengestu presents the first narrative through the eyes of a young Ugandan “student” (never truly enrolled in university, but engaged in the campus life), whose name, we learn, begins with a “D” and sounds akin to the Anglicized “Daniel.” In fact, by titling the first chapter “Isaac,” even though it is not narrated by Isaac as we know him thus far, Mengestu prepares us for the instability of identity that follows. The other narrative is told from the perspective of Helen, a young, grounded social worker who has lived the majority of her life a small city called Laurel. This strand, too, revolves around an African man supposedly named Isaac and her budding romance with him. Throughout the novel, I found myself putting forth assumptions as to Isaac’s identity, but then quickly finding it debunked. This back and forth creates a propelling tension and contributed to the fast pace of the novel; I was turning each page as quickly as possible to test the validity of my assumption, to see if it held together. I became a detective alongside Helen, waiting in her car outside of Isaac’s apartment, but whereas she wanted to preserve the mystery just a bit longer, I was dying to learn the truth about Isaac’s identity.
The novel does not rest entirely on its two-part narrative structure, though. It was also absolutely masterful in its subtle linkages of motifs and themes. Almost unconsciously, the two narratives use shared images of hand-holding; performance; a sense of being watched; universities and university protests; mapping and mark-making; and rooms of buildings (among many other motifs). Often, the two narratives seem to pivot off of one another via these subtle connections.
In terms of contextualizing this within African literature overall, the juxtapositions of narrative voice reminded me slightly of Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing. So, too, did the emphasis on names and acts of naming. However, whereas Homegoing straightforwardly addressed violence wrought on women, I felt that this topic was more subtly addressed in All Our Names; our D— narrator only briefly notices the female student being taken away by the soldiers after the Ugandan university protest, and he only quickly notes the absence of young women in the later village. He says, “[T]he loss of women was clearly recent. It was easy enough to guess what might have happened, but I refuse to think too long on it” (213). This is primarily because this first narrative thread is from the perspective of D— and Isaac, who are entrenched in the highly masculine world of warfare. Unlike Homegoing, though, All Our Names offers a great discussion of male intimacy, specifically in the relationship between Isaac and D—. Rather than stepping over male intimacy or sweeping it under the rug, this novel engaged with the complexities of their relationship in the violent atmosphere and power dynamics that surrounded them.
About Dinaw Mengestu Author of All Our Names Pdf Book
Left Ethiopia the Author of All Our Names Pdf Book at age two and was raised in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois. Graduated from Georgetown University and received his MFA from Columbia University. In 2010 he was chosen as one of the 20 best writers under 40 by The New Yorker.
All Our Names pdf, Paperback, Hardcover Book Information
- Publisher : Knopf; 1st edition (March 4, 2014)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 272 pages
- ISBN-10 : 038534998X
- ISBN-13 : 978-0385349987
- Item Weight : 1.29 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.6 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,822,899 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- #13,849 in War Fiction (Books)
- #15,601 in Coming of Age Fiction (Books)
- #80,328 in Literary Fiction (Books)
- Customer Reviews: 4.2 out of 5 stars 245 ratings
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