A Down Home Meal for These Difficult Times

Restless Jun. 2022. 224p. ISBN 9781632061188. $26. F
DEBUT In a year particularly rich with story collections, Ethiopian American author Hadero’s debut collection stands out for its evocation of the immigrant experience—it is, in fact, winner of the Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing. What’s distinctive here are the multiple perspectives Hadero brings to her work. Her stories are set in Ethiopia and the United States, with male and female protagonists struggling in different ways. In Ethiopia, Saba, who has returned from the United States to visit the country of her birth, comes to a generous solution when she finds her bags for the return flight overpacked with gifts from relatives for family abroad. Meanwhile, ambitious, hopeful Getu is sorely disappointed by a feckless NGO staffer who seems to have promised him a big future, but Getu reveals his resourcefulness in the end. In the United States, a teenager from Ethiopia via West Berlin bonds with a German boy who is himself a refugee; they speak the same language in more ways than one, and though they drift apart when the boy’s family moves, the significance of the relationship is palpable. Elsewhere, two Ethiopian women in New York discuss recipes as a way to bridge the new country and the old.
VERDICT As Saba boards her flight, she looks back, wondering if her relatives “might connect with her one more time,” and the need to connect shines throughout this strong collection.
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