All Our Names — Review

May 6, 2015

Dinaw Mengestu’s All Our Names got a number of rave reviews, and while I found parts of the story compelling, it just felt oddly familiar and a little too vague. Generally, those two don’t go hand-in-hand, but in this case I think the vagueness led to the familiar feel.

So much of the book — the characters, the plot, the setting — was so vaguely expressed that an otherwise moving tale fades into the background of “young man from a war-torn country struggles to create a new life in the US.” I’m not saying that these stories are unimportant or boring, but with no distinguishing details and similar storytelling techniques, it can be difficult to differentiate.

I even found myself wondering time and again if this was a book that a movie I’d seen a few months ago (the name of which has completely left my head) was based upon. Eventually I decided it wasn’t, but there were some striking similarities.

So it’s not that I didn’t enjoy reading it, it’s just that I felt something was lacking. Sorry I can’t give you more than that…

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