The Road Builder is a spellbinding story of romance and exploration. Will and Kate Haslin reach Ngemba with only the most vague idea about what life in Africa requires, and with no clear understanding about their own relationship. But they arrive with a concrete, if secret, goal: to uncover the shadowy past of Kate's willful--and dying--Uncle Pers.
Lost in a vast savanna, with only a hint of common language, the young Americans must reshape themselves inside a culture without expectation. And when they learn that Uncle Pers may be The Road Builder, a mysterious figure with a colonial connection, the dangers they face turn personal.
In Ngemba, history merges with myth, fable, and even gossip so that sometimes one must hallucinate the truth. It's an isolated world of realists and visionaries, who understand that "sometimes the only way out of a place is to go further in." But most important, Ngemba is the tense, hazy village where Will and Kate learn to dream what they know.
With the seductive prose of a gifted storyteller, Nick Hershenow weaves sophisticated questions about the nature of truth and reality into the epic but very personal story of a man and a woman who must define themselves against endless mysteries.
A luminous and wise debut that heralds the arrival of a major talent.
From the Author:
When I started this book I was largely motivated by some powerful and intricate, yet still vague, sense of Africa: something to do with the mood of sitting on a porch above a river listening to the timeless sounds of the equatorial night - sounds of the physical forces and creatures and humans and spirits that inhabit the night. A mood of intense beauty, sensuality, and spirituality, but in the context of a sorrowful history and destructive politics and truly outrageous injustice and inequity. This sense carried through the long writing of the book, and I hope the reader will find that it ultimately crystallized into a distinctive vision of Africa, an evocative adventure and love story, and a compelling exploration of memory, history, and the creation of myth.
Book Sense - Robert Olen Butler
How rare to find a novel that seamlessly and artfully blends a beautifully nuanced, character-driven story with a story of epic scope, one that resonates into the largest issues of our world. The Road Builder succeeds brilliantly at this, leading us through both the mystery that is Africa and the mystery that is the human heart. Nicholas Hershenow is a major literary talent, and his debut--and, not incidentally, the debut of BlueHen Books to nurture such talent--are reasons for booklovers to rejoice.
Library Journal - Faye A Chadwell
... this is ultimately an unsatisfying read. Much of it just plods along, generating little excitement for the reader which, given the novel's epic scope, is all the more disappointing.
Hershenow, himself a former Peace Corps volunteer in Africa, delivers a fictional meal as rich, spicy and mysterious as the "bima," or stew of "things," dished out by Will's Ngemban hosts.
Booklist - Elizabeth Bush
This subtle novel, distinguished by strong characterization, examines the complexities of human and cross-cultural relationships.
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