Small Country
digital download. 6:02 hrs. Books on Tape. Jun. 2018. ISBN 9780525633600. $57. F
OrangeReviewStarIn this debut, French singer/rapper Faye transforms his own background into an impressive, searing coming-of-age novel about a Burundian family's implosion during the 1990s. What seemed like an idyllic, privileged childhood for ten-year-old Gabriel—made memorable by mischievous adventures with close friends—begins to unravel with the harsh discord cleaving his French father from his Rwandan mother. His parents' personal disintegration mirrors Burundi's political chaos, the terror and tragedy exacerbated by the Tutsi/Hutu genocide exploding next door in Rwanda. Alliances, loyalties, even passports become moot: the massacres leave few unscathed. Gaby bears witness, his distress growing over his unreliable parents, confusion about his own mixed-race identity, and shock at the unrelenting casual violence even among his tween companions. He finds temporary respite in books offered by a neighbor, but little can assuage the horrors around him. Escape comes at an exorbitantly high price. Chimerical narrator Dominic Hoffman embodies youthful Gaby with a chilling mix of exuberance and fear; he's equally affecting as Gaby's elders—from dismissive colonial expats and demanding foreigners to abusive militia and petrified victims.
VERDICT With the novel already an internationally best-selling, major prize-winning achievement, this indelible audio edition should be widely available. ["Faye eloquently speaks to the untenable choices, among love of country, family, or survival, that victims in conflict zones are forced to make": LJ 4/15/18 review of the Hogarth: Crown hc.]

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