AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
When Nuruddin Farah was a young writer he published a satirical novel about Somalia, his home country. On his way home from a trip he called his brother to ask for a ride from the airport. His brother told him to stay away; the novel had caused a stir and he was in trouble in Somalia. For more than 20 years, Farah lived in exile. He traveled widely and chronicled the lives of Somalis from abroad. His exile ended in the mid-'90s but the experience still informs his writing. Farrah's latest novel is called "Hiding In Plain Sight." Alan Cheuse has a review.
ALAN CHEUSE, BYLINE: The book opens with a Somali UN official, a father of two finishing up his assignment at the UN headquarters in Mogadishu. But just before he leaves his office, a terrorist blows up the building and he dies in the attack. From there, we go to Rome where we meet the dead man's half-sister, a glamorous photographer named Bella. She's sunk deep into grief by her brother's sudden demise, but since his wife had long ago abandoned the kids, Bella packs her bags and cameras and heads to Nairobi to pick up her niece and nephew at boarding school.
For the rest of the novel Bella tries to reconfigure the family, giving up her life in Rome and presumably, her career and her lovers to dedicate herself to the children, but when their mother shows up - her female lover in tow - a battle over the kids, both overt and subtle begins and plays out until the very last page.
This story takes place in modern urban Africa with its guarded gated communities, laptops, desktops, new cars, gourmet takeout and highfalutin' lawyers on both sides of a custody battle. Will the kids be all right? A lot of tension rises from that question. And Bella - will she make a good new life for herself as the head of a family? It's a brilliant novel of manners in which these questions arise. This family, our families - Africa and America have never seemed closer in the way we live now.
CORNISH: That was Alan Cheuse with a review of "Hiding In Plain Sight" by Nuruddin Farah.
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