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The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears    by Dinaw Mengestu order for
Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears
by Dinaw Mengestu
Order:  USA  Can
Riverhead, 2007 (2007)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Daninhirsch

This beautifully written novel is about being a stranger in an adopted country, and a stranger to others and to yourself. Sepha Stephanos, who came to America seventeen years ago from Ethiopia, owns a dilapidated convenience store. He can go for days without seeing more than a few customers. His only two friends are other African nationals: Kenny, who works as an engineer, and Joseph, a waiter, who shrinks away in embarrassment when one of his friends sees him at work.

It is not until Sepha meets Judith and her daughter Naomi that he begins to feel a sense of renewed hope. Judith renovates a home in a neighborhood that is trying to become chic but is still mostly rundown. When vandals begin targeting certain homes and businesses, Sepha is forced to think about his choices: what happened to the promises of America? When it is revealed how and why his father died, why he had to leave his mother and brother behind in Africa, the reader gains a greater understanding into what makes Sepha tick.

With lyrical prose, the author writes effortlessly about how to fit into society, how to rouse yourself from inertia and start living, and how to feel comfortable in your own skin. I hope this book finds an audience - it is truly deserving of some sort of literary prize, and I wouldn't be surprised to find it being nominated in the future.

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