Tuesday, April 3, 2007

FINALLY! Review: What is the What by Dave Eggers

I feel like it took me absolutely forever to read this book. It's almost 500 pages, but with very dense typeset and tiny margins, it's more like 1,000 pages in "real life".

The subject matter, however, is fascinating. It's labeled "fiction", but it's really non-fiction with some facts that can't be verifiable. So to avoid the James Frey issue, they're calling it fiction. The subject is the war in Sudan (different from the Darfur conflict going on now) and one of the "Lost Boys" as they came to be known. Hundreds of boys ran from their villages and were orphaned or lost track of their families and thereafter lived in refugee camps for the remainder of their childhood.

One of these lost boys was Valentino Achak Deng, who is now living and working in the United States. This is basically his story, from the time he ran from his village, to hearing boys eaten by lions, to life in the refugee camp, to transitioning to life in the United States. I've never really been able to get into Dave Eggers writing (although I admire him and McSweeney's) but boy does he do this subject justice.

I had jury duty the other day and saw a guy reading this book. We were both at about the same spot in the book, and I just wanted to go sit by him and have a lengthy discussion of the book...but didn't because I didn't want him to think me totally annoying. But trust me, if you read this book, you're going to want to talk about it! I have a hard time thinking about the conditions described in this book - and to think of people living under these conditions just 5 years ago, as I was cuddling my first baby in my warm, safe house full of food and clothing. Heck, who am I kidding? I can't believe people are living like this in refugee camps all over the world this very moment. It's really hard to comprehend.

This closes my "Africa" month. I didn't intend for it to be that, but after Half of a Yellow Sun, Beasts of No Nation and What is the What, I think I'm ready for something lighter!


Wendy said...

You said: '...but after Half of a Yellow Sun, Beasts of No Nation and What is the What, I think I'm ready for something lighter'

No kidding! LOL! I've read the first two and What is the What is on my wish list, but it will have to wait for now :) Thanks for the review!

kookiejar said...

Just dropped by to tell you that I just nominated you for the Thinking Blogger award. Can't wait to see your list of thought-provoking blogs.

Lisa said...

Oh thanks kookie. I'll have to think about that one...so many of the ones I read have already been nominated!!! Now I really DO have to think!!

SFP said...

I need to have an Africa month. I have both the Eggers and Half of a Yellow Sun, plus a few other books set in Africa that I've managed to collect.

Happy to hear your opinion of What is the What. . .