Unnatural Resources

Permanent. Nov. 2020. 220p. ISBN 9781579626402. $29.95. F
DEBUT In action-based prose, Uhrlaub’s debut about squandered Congolese resources unfolds cinematically. Therese spends her childhood in a bountiful village, surrounded by ripening bananas and silver fish from the lake. When it turns out that the bubbles in the lake come from methane gas rather than fish, big business encroaches. Rather than using the gas to power the Congo for generations, white men hire militia to enslave the locals, extract the resources from the land, and send the money into orbit. Therese’s stolid character blends the fears and aspirations of childhood with the maturity of a girl whose world has been swept away. Hemmed into a mothering role as she cares for her lost brother’s friend, 11-year-old Therese’s moving search for her family leads the way through a brilliant landscape of dangerous beauty amid displays of uncommon ability.
VERDICT This straightforward account of the trail of pillage, rape, and murder left by multinational companies dramatizes a recurrent archetype in literature about Africa, as well as an economic failing too rarely addressed. Therese’s shame in her dirty dress and her dignity as she treks across the land in search of her people make this novel a worthy contribution to the growing pool of migrant literature.

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