A novel of exhilarating range, magical realism, and history--a dazzling retelling of Liberia's formation
Way tu Moore's powerful debut novel, She Would Be King, reimagines the dramatic story of Liberia's early years through three unforgettable characters who share an uncommon bond. Gbessa, exiled from the West African village of Lai, is starved, bitten by a viper, and left for dead, but still she survives. June Dey, raised on a plantation in Virginia, hides his unusual strength until a confrontation with the overseer forces him to flee. Norman Aragon, the child of a white British colonizer and a Maroon slave from Jamaica, can fade from sight when the earth calls him. When the three meet in the settlement of Monrovia, their gifts help them salvage the tense relationship between the African American settlers and the indigenous tribes, as a new nation forms around them.
Moore's intermingling of history and magical realism finds voice not just in these three characters but also in the fleeting spirit of the wind, who embodies an ancient wisdom. "If she was not a woman," the wind says of Gbessa, "she would be king." In this vibrant story of the African diaspora, Moore, a talented storyteller and a daring writer, illuminates with radiant and exacting prose the tumultuous roots of a country inextricably bound to the United States. She Would Be King is a novel of profound depth set against a vast canvas and a transcendent debut from a major new author.
This item is Non-Returnable
- ISBN-13: 9781555978174
- ISBN-10: 1555978177
- Publisher: Graywolf Press
- Publish Date: September 2018
- Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 1.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.32 pounds
- Page Count: 312
Strange powers in a new nation
BookPage Top Pick in Fiction, September 2018
“Fengbe, keh kamba beh. Fengbe, kemu beh. . . . We have nothing but we have God. We have nothing but we have each other.” This is the refrain of She Would Be King. Wayétu Moore’s debut novel is more than an imagining of Liberia’s mid-1800s beginnings; it is a magical account of ongoing, individual and collective independence from oppressive forces.
She Would Be King begins with distinct storylines about three cursed characters: Gbessa in Africa, June in Virginia and Norman in Jamaica. When she comes of age in the village of Lai, Gbessa is sent into the forest, where she’s expected to die from a snakebite but instead discovers her power of resurrection. Abandoned at birth, June is called “Moses” by his adoptive mother, a slave. Defending her against the plantation owner’s wife, June discovers his superhuman strength for which he is then banished. Norman is the son of a Maroon “witch” who can become invisible at will, and his British father wants to take advantage of this special power shared by mother and child. Gbessa, June and Norman meet in Monrovia, Liberia, where the curses that have made them pariahs become the gifts that help them defend freed slaves and Africans from invading French traders.
Ascending over the isolated stories is a comforting voice to both the characters and the reader. “Take care, my darling . . . my friend,” says the first-person narrator who ties these stories together in mysticism and eloquence. The pain that this narrator and the three main characters have in common becomes their shared language, focusing and sharpening their gifts. Moore’s insightful, emotional descriptions graft these stories right onto readers’ hearts.
A celebration of freedom and justice that compassionately tells the stories of exceptional people, Moore’s debut is about every fight against death and bondage.