Excerpt from The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears by Dinaw Mengestu, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears

A Novel

By Dinaw Mengestu

The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • Hardcover: Mar 2007,
    240 pages.
    Paperback: Feb 2008,
    240 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

Excerpt
The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears

Joseph’s already drunk when he comes into the store. He strolls through the open door with his arms open. You get the sense when watching him that even the grandest gestures he may make aren’t grand enough for him. He’s constantly trying to outdo himself, to reach new levels of Josephness that will ensure that anyone who has ever met him will carry some lingering trace of Joseph Kahangi long after he has left. He’s now a waiter at an expensive downtown restaurant, and after he cleans each table he downs whatever alcohol is still left in the glasses before bringing them back to the kitchen. I can tell by his slight swagger that the early dinnertime crowd was better than usual today.

Joseph is short and stout like a tree stump. He has a large round face that looks like a moon pie. Kenneth used to tell him he looked Ghanaian.

“You have a typical Ghanaian face, Joe. Round eyes. Round face. Round nose. You’re Ghanaian through and through. Admit it, and let us move on.”

Joseph would stand up then and theatrically slam his fist onto the table, or into his palm, or against the wall. “I am from Zaire,” he would yell out. “And you are a ass.” Or, more recently, and in a much more subdued tone: “I am from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Next week, it may be something different. I admit that. Perhaps tomorrow I’ll be from the Liberated Land of Laurent Kabila. But today, as far as I know, I am from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.”

Joseph kisses me once on each cheek after he takes his coat off.

“That’s my favorite thing about you Ethiopians,” he says. “You kiss each other on the cheeks all the time. It takes you hours to say hello and good-bye because you’re constantly kissing each other. Kiss. Kiss. Kiss.”

Kenneth pours Joseph a scotch and the three of us raise our cups for a toast.

“How is America today, Stephanos?” Joseph asks me.

“He hates it,” Kenneth says.

“That’s because he doesn’t understand it.” Joseph leans closer toward me, his large moon-pie face eclipsing my view of every thing except his eyes, which are small and bloodshot, and look as if they were added onto his face as an afterthought.

“I’ve told you,” he says. “This country is like a little bastard child. You can’t be angry when it doesn’t give you what you want.”

He leans back deliberately in his chair and crosses his legs, holding the pose for two seconds before leaning over and resting both arms on his thighs.

“But you have to praise it when it comes close, otherwise it’ll turn around and bite you in the ass.”

The two of them laugh and then quickly pour back their drinks and refill their glasses. There is a brief silence as each struggles to catch his breath. Before either of them can tell me something else about America (“This country cares only about one thing...” “There are three things you need to know about Americans...”), I call out, “Bukassa.” The name catches them off guard. They both turn and stare at me. They swirl their cups around and around to make sure it looks like they’re thinking. Kenneth walks over to the map of Africa I keep taped on the wall right next to the door. It’s at least twenty years old, maybe older. The borders and names have changed since it was made, but maps, like pictures and journals, have a built-in nostalgic quality that can never render them completely obsolete. The countries are all color-coded, and Africa’s hanging dour head looks like a woman’s head wrapped in a shawl. Kenneth rubs his hand silently over the continent, working his way west to east and then south until his index finger tickles the tip of South Africa. When he’s finished tracing his hand over the map, he turns around and points at me.

Excerpted from The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears by Dinaw Mengestu © 2007 by Dinaw Mengestu. Excerpted by permission of Riverhead Books, a division of Penguin Group. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Goldfinch
    The Goldfinch
    by Donna Tartt
    Winner of the 2014 Pulitzer for Fiction.

    Her canvas is vast. To frame a story about art, love and ...
  • Book Jacket: Toms River
    Toms River
    by Dan Fagin
    Winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction

    In Toms River, investigative journalist Dan Fagin ...
  • Book Jacket: The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
    The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
    by Gabrielle Zevin
    I feel like Gabrielle Zevin wrote this wonderful book, about a lonely New England bookstore owner ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
by Gabrielle Zevin

Published Apr. 2014

Join the discussion!

  1.  254Cartwheel:
    Jennifer duBois
  2.  143Happier at Home:
    Gretchen Rubin

All Discussions

Who Said...

Dictators ride to and fro on tigers from which they dare not dismount. And the tigers are getting hungry

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

P Your O C

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.