Mbue’s second novel takes place in Africa in the village of Kosawa. Pexton, and American oil company, has been extracting oil in Kosawa which in turn pollutes the river and crops causing death to some of its residents, mostly children. When the Kosawans finally figure out what is happening to their tribal village, they try in their naive and unworldly way to fight the rich and powerful American corporation. Many villagers join the fight against greed and pollution, but the leader is Thula. She is a native who was educated in The United States, and gave up everything to return to her homeland to help her family and friends.
How Beautiful We Were is one of the saddest books I’ve read in a long time. Well-written with heroic and villainous characters, Mbue’s work of fiction describes a sense of hopelessness for the future.