Book review: New fiction reveals intertwined lives the reader can’t put down
March 16, 2018
“Speak No Evil”
by Uzodinma Iweala
Every once in a while a book gets you, gets under your skin, won’t let you go.
“Speak No Evil” is under my skin. I can’t stop thinking about it. It hurts. I want it to go away, and I don’t.
Niru and Meredith are seniors at a prestigeous private school in Washington, D.C. They are desperately drawn to each other, lives intertwined like the twisted vines of the gardens of the National Cathedral, but Niru’s secret draws boundaries between them.
A mistake, the simplest of mistakes, betrays that secret, and as we read, the world takes hold of them and hurls them like flotsam on a storm-tossed sea towards an ending we cannot imagine or anticipate.
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Through this story, Iweala grapples with tough questions. Can there be such a thing as conditional love? Can we ever forgive ourselves for actions, or inaction, we can’t take back? How do we live with unbearable pain?
To tell this story, Iweala gives us deftly drawn characters. We see unimaginable conflict in Niru, anger, intolerance and love in his father, and desperation, innocence and longing in Meredith. Each haunts you as you turn the pages. You feel their laughter, their tears, their anger, their skin, as though it is your own. You sense their lingering presence when the story is done.
Uzodinma Iweala is a brilliant young writer. Every word matters. You read his prose slowly, almost aloud. Each paragraph, each chapter, reveals itself like the crocus emerging in the snow, secretly, surprisingly, astonishingly.
Iweala’s first book, “Beasts of No Nation,” won multiple awards. This one will, too. Read it.
This title is available at Off the Beaten Path Bookstore and Bud Werner Memorial Library.
Ron Krall is the owner of Off the Beaten Path Bookstore.