by Dinaw Mengestu

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Review

Dinaw Mengestu’s novel How to Read the Air shows what happens when people who need to have honest conversations avoid each other.  The narrative see-saws from abject tragedy to light-hearted irony, covering the familiar topics of love, relationships, jobs, money, and the search for meaning; but seeping into all of this is the more extraordinary experience of Ethiopian refugees trying to make sense of a new life in the United States.  The characters remain as estranged from each other as refugees from their own home, and there appears to be no way to fix it.  The novel is heavy, dark, and lonely, and should be required reading for all Americans.

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