Radiance of Tomorrow
Every story begins and ends with a woman, a mother, a grandmother, a girl, a child. Every story is a birth…
So begins Radiance of Tomorrow, Ishmael Beah’s first novel, one dogged by memories of horror but glimmering with an improbably hope. When Beah’s memoir, 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, a book that “everyone in the world should read” (Carolyn See, The Washington Post). Now Beah, whom Dave Eggers has called “arguably the most read African writer in contemporary literature,” has returned with an affecting, tender parable about postwar life in those regions of Africa still reeling from conflict.
At the center of Radiance of Tomorrow are Benjamin and Bockarie, two longtime friends who return to their hometown, Imperi, after a devastating civil war. The village is in ruins, the ground covered in bones and drenched in deep despair. The war may be over, but the denizens of Imperi are not spared the dangers that hover over them, menacing as vengeful ghosts. 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 depradations of 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. If A Long Way Gone taught us to mourn the crimes of yesterday, Radiance of Tomorrow introduces us to a people who must survive their guilt and accept tomorrow, with all its promise—and radiance.
“Beah writes in the gentle, inviting voice of one sharing a fable…. Beah’s message is haunting.” - People
“Radiance of Tomorrow is … a rare look at the phenomena of homecoming and reclamation, written with the moral urgency of a parable and the searing precision of a firsthand account…. As a reader, you can’t help rooting for [his characters] . . . [T]here is an allegorical richness to Beah’s storytelling and a remarkable humanity to his characters…. Beah’s voice is more expansive and lyrical here than in his memoir. As he explains in an author’s note, he has marshaled the cadences and figurative imagery found in Mende, his native language.” - The New York Times Book Review
“Beah shows how simple social graces and traditions like elders’ storytelling, coupled with the presence of children too young to remember the war, help heal the shattered community. He also beautifully depicts natural forms of reconciliation…. Beah’s novel is full of profound passages which acknowledge the necessity of nuanced judgments in a world of ‘crooked or broken roads….Radiance of Tomorrow is a book that says daring things with gentle authority.” - The Globe and Mail
“[An] emotionally nimble story of return and rebuilding….Radiance of Tomorrow negotiates a delicate space somewhere between psychological realism and tribal fable…. Its sympathetic exploration of the villagers’ lives is always subtle and engaging…. Beah has … a lyrical style all his own.” - The Washington Post
“Evocative…. Beah’s writing is powerful. His use of language echoes the poetry of his mother tongue…. Radiance of Tomorrow is a potent and poignant story that will stay with readers long after the last page is turned.” - Winnipeg Free Press
“Beah writes lyrically and passionately about ugly realities as well as about the beauty and dignity of traditional ways.” - Kirkus Reviews (starred)
“We find poetic beauty in his anthropomorphic treatment of nature… Radiance of Tomorrow is a fable-like novel about rebuilding, renewal and, as the title suggests, hope…. There is much to enjoy in this tale.” - StarTribune (Minneapolis)
“[Beah] returns to the aftermath of that war in his humbling first novel, Radiance of Tomorrow, which uses the gentle, haunting language of fable to describe a heartrending present…. Beah’s characters have a resilience and an ability to quietly nurture hope that is humbling to read about…. Radiance of Tomorrow eschews melodrama and histrionics, matter-of-factly describing the most awful events in a way in keeping with the air of reserve that Beah’s characters display.” - Christian Science Monitor
“[A] heartbreaking first novel…. The language of the Radiance of Tomorrow—simple sentences with flashes of poetry—builds to the cadence of a fable…. That prose style, so organic, so rich with metaphors of sky, wind, and night, adds enormous power to Beah’s already potent piece of fiction.” - Boston Globe
“A formidable and memorable novel—a story of resilience and survival, and, ultimately, rebirth.” - Publishers Weekly
“A deeply affecting novel. While it possesses the moral force of his memoir, Beah’s fiction debut is also a great work of imagination in which characters are fully realized, the landscape is both unforgiving and generous, and his gifts with language lift the story off the page and into the imagination." - Chicago Tribune (Editor’s Choice)