How to Read the Air (Mengestu)

Dinaw Mengestu’s second novel, How to Read the Air, is a remarkable book, better than his excellent The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears. The protagonist, Jonas, fresh off his divorce, attempts to recreate a journey his parents took from Peoria, Illinois to Nashville, Tennessee. Mengestu weaves these two stories (as well as others) together in a remarkably fluid and purposeful way. His prose is economical and often stunning. His attention to detail, especially when it comes to Jonas, is outstanding. This book asks questions about the meaning of the stories that precede us, the stories we tell ourselves, and the stories we tell others. It’s the kind of book that will stay with you long after you finish it.

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