To not read this epic "memoir-esque" novel of the life of Valentino Acha Deng is, frankly, to not be aware of the true nature and depth-and hellaciousness- of human experience transpiring right here on earth in the modern age. Out of eye and earshot for the, largely, safe citizens of the USA there dwells another variety of life experience nearly unimaginable to most of us. The violence and civil strife in Sudan over the past many years may garner a headline or two which, may in turn, cross our paths and offer us a moderate amount of information as to the mass-murder, chaos and genocide that has been transpiring in that country during that time. Through the words of Dave Eggers and his portrayl of Deng's seemingly cursed existence, however, we gain a near first hand experience of what it felt, looked and smelled like to be in Sudan when the first murahaleen began their murderous death rides.
The author and his subject chose the form of fiction for this work so as best to serve the expression of the story given the difficulties inherent in recounting exact specific memories. The overall story that comes through, however, rings with truth. Egger's literary triumph in telling this story is bested only by Deng's remarkably resilient and generous spirit. Tragic but epic. ~ Reviewed by Jon Fine