Radiance of Tomorrow
by Ishmael Beah

Overview -

A haunting, beautiful first novel by the bestselling author of "A Long Way Gone"
When Ishmael Beah's "A Long Way Gone" was published in 2007, it soared to the top of bestseller lists, becoming an instant classic: a harrowing account of Sierra Leone's civil war and the fate of child soldiers that "everyone in the world should read" ("The Washington Post").  Read more...

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More About Radiance of Tomorrow by Ishmael Beah

A haunting, beautiful first novel by the bestselling author of "A Long Way Gone"
When Ishmael Beah's "A Long Way Gone" was published in 2007, it soared to the top of bestseller lists, becoming an instant classic: a harrowing account of Sierra Leone's civil war and the fate of child soldiers that "everyone in the world should read" ("The Washington Post"). Now Beah, whom Dave Eggers has called "arguably the most read African writer in contemporary literature," has returned with his first novel, an affecting, tender parable about postwar life in Sierra Leone.
At the center of "Radiance of Tomorrow" are Benjamin and Bockarie, two longtime friends who return to their hometown, Imperi, after the civil war. The village is in ruins, the ground covered in bones. As more villagers begin to come back, Benjamin and Bockarie try to forge a new community by taking up their former posts as teachers, but they're beset by obstacles: a scarcity of food; a rash of murders, thievery, rape, and retaliation; and the depredations of a foreign mining company intent on sullying the town's water supply and blocking its paths with electric wires. As Benjamin and Bockarie search for a way to restore order, they're forced to reckon with the uncertainty of their past and future alike.
With the gentle lyricism of a dream and the moral clarity of a fable, "Radiance of Tomorrow" is a powerful novel about preserving what means the most to us, even in uncertain times.
Named one of the "Christian Science Monitor"'s best fiction books of 2014

  • ISBN-13: 9780374246020
  • ISBN-10: 0374246025
  • Publisher: Sarah Crichton Books
  • Publish Date: January 2014
  • Page Count: 242
  • Dimensions: 1 x 6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.85 pounds

Related Categories

Books > Fiction > Literary

Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2013-10-28
  • Reviewer: Staff

Reviewed by Edwidge Danticat. In his 2007 memoir, A Long Way Gone, Ishmael Beah writes of those waiting for war to invade their lives: “Families who had walked hundreds of miles told how relatives had been killed and their houses burned. Some people felt sorry for them and offered them places to stay, but most of the refugees refused, because they said the war would eventually reach their town.” The decade-long war in Sierra Leone between government forces and Liberian-funded rebels did eventually reach Beah’s and other towns, and he was swept up in the conflict as a child soldier, a story he vividly recounts in his memoir. This time Beah has written an actual novel—his first—not about the war itself, but about its aftermath. What happens when those who have committed atrocities or have been the victims of them return to what is left of their homes? We get our answer via several residents of the devastated Sierra Leonean town of Imperi, where an older couple, Mama Kadie and Pa Moiwa, and a young schoolteacher named Bockarie are among the first to return. Recalling the Friday afternoon the town was attacked, they remember the rocket-propelled grenades that brought down the chief’s compound, heralding a new order while “killing many people, whose flesh sizzled from the explosions.” Those who escaped, and eventually made it through the war in good enough shape to return, considered themselves lucky, save for the survivor’s guilt that forced them to seek comfort, even in the most horrifying places. Looking at the piles of human bones that still litter the town, Mama Kadie imagines that she might be able to identify the remains of her grandchildren among them. The pain of not knowing whether or not they had survived the war is too much to bear and she wants some finality. The town eventually falls into some kind of routine. Other survivors flood in from refugee camps in neighboring countries. Burned houses are rebuilt and a school is opened, allowing Bockarie to teach there. The notion that the town might return to its old, familiar ways soon vanishes, however, when a mining company, in search of rutile—used as a pigment in paint, plastic, and food—sets up shop, polluting the town’s waterways. Bockarie’s best friend also dies a senseless death while working at the mine. Bockarie eventually decides to return with his friend’s wife to her hometown, only to find life even more unbearable there, in the shadow of a diamond mine. This leaves only Freetown, with its Chinese-run hotels, drug runners, and “false life” Europe- and U.S.-based returnees, who missed the war all together. This part of the novel leaves us wondering what might happen next to some characters to whom we’ve grown attached. However, as Beah reminds us on the book’s final page, “It is the end, or maybe the beginning of another story.... Every story is a birth.” In Radiance of Tomorrow, Beah has produced a formidable and memorable novel—a story of resilience and survival, and, ultimately, rebirth. Edwidge Danticat is the author of several books, including, most recently, Claire of the Sea Light, a novel.

BookPage Reviews

Return to Sierra Leone

The gentle, folktale-like narrative style of Ishmael Beah’s compelling debut novel, Radiance of Tomorrow, belies the endemic injustice and brutality in the story it tells. The Sierra Leone-born Beah, now living in the U.S., first shared his country’s dark reality with A Long Way Gone, a memoir of his violent experiences as a child soldier during its harrowing civil war. For his first work of fiction, Beah again takes readers to his West African homeland with the story of a rural village, ravaged and abandoned during the war, attempting an uneasy rebirth.

The first to return to Imperi are three elders, who honor the unidentifiable dead by burying their bones. Soon others begin to come back and repopulate the town, including two teachers, Bockarie and Benjamin, both idealists who believe in the future despite the ugly past they have witnessed. A former child soldier, simply called the Colonel, becomes the “Man in Charge” of a group of damaged orphans like himself, including a repentant boy once forced to amputate the hands of the innocent.

At first the town enjoys a degree of success in getting back on its feet, but everything changes when a foreign-owned mining company returns to extract the rich vein of rutile from the earth. The exploitation of the land and the cheap, expendable labor force drawn from the native population devastates the town, the mining company paying little heed to local traditions. Each successive tragedy—a polluted water source, the rapes of local girls, the unrecorded deaths of workers in industrial accidents—further tears the fabric of Imperi. Still, the elders hold onto a diminishing hope.

Beah writes with a quiet confidence that borrows much from the oral tradition in which he was raised. His arresting style also bears a debt to an earlier generation of post-colonial writers such as Chinua Achebe. The last few chapters, when Bockarie and his family leave Imperi and try their luck in the capital city of Freetown, are less successful than the rest of the book—hurried and a bit overstuffed with incident—but Radiance of Tomorrow is an impressive fiction debut by a talented writer with a singular tale to tell.

BAM Customer Reviews