Amistad: HarperCollins. Jun. 2022. 336p. ISBN 9780063159556. $26.99. F
DEBUT In his first novel, award-nominated playwright Donaldson communicates complex issues of race and sexuality in a nuanced and multifaceted narrative. A Black, gay British writer, Kip Starling is living in Brooklyn with his white American husband, Ben, when he learns that his novel about the secret love affair between famed author E.M. Forster and Black Egyptian tram conductor Mohammed el Adl may have a chance of being published—if only he can rewrite it in six weeks. Kip barricades himself in the basement as he attempts the rewrite from Mohammed’s point of view. The narrative then alternates between the perspectives of Mohammed and Kip, whose relationship with Ben parallels the story of Mohammed and the secret love affair to great effect. After being visited by a seemingly paranormal messenger, Kip decides that he needs to escape to the wilderness and lands in Greenland, where the novel reaches a satisfying crescendo connecting past and present while retaining the intimate nature that is its great strength.
VERDICT Perceptive and personal, this compelling novel eloquently clarifies ongoing issues of race and racism while authentically telling a unique story. Highly recommended.
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