* The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears by Dinaw Mengestu (2007)

Some might say that nothing happens in this novel, and in some ways that’s true.  The main character owns a small grocery store and much of the story revolves around the monotony of running that store.  He and his two best friends, all immigrants from African countries, spend much of their time at the store discussing politics, family background, life in America, and their various approaches to what we might term “work ethic.”  But really I think this is a book about how we are ultimately a product of our upbringing, and that we view the world and our place in it based on values and a lifestyle instilled in us at an early age.  One aspect of the book that I found particularly interesting was the political reference to various African countries and their current and past leaders, mostly military thugs who staged a coup and took control.  As I flip through a daily newspaper, I almost always come across the political and military quagmires to which he refers in the book.  (fiction)

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