How Beautiful We Were

Imbolo Mbue

How Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Mbue (Hardback ISBN 9781838851347) book cover

Available as Hardback, eBook, Downloadable audio

11 March 2021

From the author of the New York Times bestseller Behold the Dreamers, comes a sweeping story about the collision of a small African village and an American oil company

‘A formidable storyteller’ Jonathan Franzen

Set in the fictional African village of Kosawa, How Beautiful We Were tells the story of a people living in fear amidst environmental degradation wrought by an American oil company. Pipeline spills have rendered farmlands infertile. Children are dying from drinking toxic water. Promises of clean-up and financial reparations are made – and ignored. The country’s government, led by a brazen dictator, exists to serve its own interest only. Left with few choices, the people of Kosawa decide to fight back. But their fight will come at a steep price … one which generation after generation will have to pay.

Told through the perspective of a generation of children and the family of a girl named Thula, How Beautiful We Were is a masterful exploration of what happens when the reckless drive for profit, coupled with the ghost of colonialism, comes up against one community’s determination to hold onto its ancestral land and a young woman’s willingness to sacrifice everything for the sake of her people’s freedom.


“The unforgettable story of a community on the wrong end of Western greed, How Beautiful We Were will enthral you, appal you and show you what is possible when a few people stand up and say “this is not right”. A masterful novel by a spellbinding writer engaged with the most urgent questions of our day”
David Ebershoff, New York Times Bestselling Author Of The Danish Girl

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“Imbolo Mbue would be a formidable storyteller anywhere, in any language. It’s our good luck that she and her stories are American”
Jonathan Franzen

How Beautiful We Were goes to the heart of one of the most urgent matters of the day. The highly suspenseful story of an African village’s struggle for survival and justice in the face of ruthless American corporate greed is written with remarkable acuity and compassion. Mbue has given us a book with the richness and power of a great contemporary fable, and a heroine for our time”
Sigrid Nunez, Author Of The Friend, Winner Of The National Book Award

“What a beautiful book! I can’t tell you how many times I cried for these characters, their place and their story … Beautifully written with moving and vivid descriptions, engaging complex characters, interesting plots, and tension so tightly wound that at times I found myself holding my breath”
Yvonne Battle-felton, Author Of Remembered

“Imbolo Mbue is a breathtaking talent”
Christina Baker Kline, New York Times Bestselling Author Of Orphan Train


Imbolo Mbue

Imbolo Mbue is the author of the New York Times bestseller, Behold the Dreamers, which won the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction and was an Oprah’s Book Club selection. The novel has been translated into eleven languages, adapted into an opera and a stage play, and optioned for a miniseries. A native of Limbe, Cameroon, Mbue lives in New York.

imbolombue.com