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FREE E-PUB Ò What Is the What Á From the bestselling author of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, What Is the What is the epic novel based on the life of Valentino Achak Deng who, along with thousands of other children the so called Lost Boys was forced to leave his village in Sudan at the age of seven and trek hundreds of miles by foot, pursued by militias, government bombers, and wild animals, crossing the deserts of three countries to find freedom When he finally is resettled in the United States, he finds a life full of promise, but also heartache and myriad new challenges Moving, suspenseful, and unexpectedly funny, What Is the What is an astonishing novel that illuminates the lives of millions through one extraordinary man back cover Dave Eggers tells Achack s story much like you would hear it if you had befriended the Sudanese refugee yourself this book is like a conversation with a good friend you start where you are hello, how are you, i am being robbed at gun point you move back to the begining this is where i am from, the world was dust, we knew it to be Sudan, there was nobut, to explain the begining, and to get to the end, you often have laughs in the middle successful with women eventually a life Dave Eggers tells Achack s story much like you would hear it if you had befriended the Sudanese refugee yourself this book is like a conversation with a good friend you start where you are hello, how are you, i am being robbed at gun point you move back to the begining this is where i am from, the world was dust, we knew it to be Sudan, there was nobut, to explain the begining, and to get to the end, you often have laughs in the middle successful with women eventually a life is woven infront of you, and somewhere along the way you become a part of the story it s just that i haven t had a conversation like this before, one that starts with a burglary in Atlanta, draws you back to a small village in soutern Sudan, and marches you in and out of Ethiopia, the jungles, the rivers, the lions stare, over the bodies, into the refugee camps, into love, out of heartbreak this is a vast story this is a story told unflinchingly by the best of humanity, told of the worse afflicition humanity can bring down of one person who knows his story intermingles with millions of others this is about the Lost Boys, about the civil war of Sudan, of apparent caste systems and the invisible ones, about loss and grief, the physical and emotional distress that a body can handle, love, war, violence, learning to write in dirt, growing up, struggle, transformation, adaptation mostly this is a clear voice that has every right to be broken or twisted, but it is not, it remains even lyrical, humorous what i am left with is the word war, how small it is like boy these words should have thousands of letters in them to convey their impact, because i had no idea you can hear these words and they might conjur one image maybe two or three but what Dave Eggers and Achack have done is paint a huge landscape behind three letters murals upon murals in my head, and what is hung on them is so touching, so sickening and moving, such a story is told that you can t go back to where you were before boy war give me better words give us a better world to match this boy this might be one of the most important books of our time it is absolutley required reading If you know me at all, you know I read a lot So I don t take these reviews lightly Here goes What is the What is without a doubt one of the best books I have ever read The story of Valentino Achak Deng, a so called Lost Boy of the Sudan, is so moving that after reading the book I went to his web site and signed up for information on how I can help the cause Dave Eggers, who is easily one of my favorite fiction writers, has donated the proceeds of the book to a foundation co founded by he and If you know me at all, you know I read a lot So I don t take these reviews lightly Here goes What is the What is without a doubt one of the best books I have ever read The story of Valentino Achak Deng, a so called Lost Boy of the Sudan, is so moving that after reading the book I went to his web site and signed up for information on how I can help the cause Dave Eggers, who is easily one of my favorite fiction writers, has donated the proceeds of the book to a foundation co founded by he and Valentino www.valentinoachackdeng.org.The writing is brilliant and the story is compellingbut I think what makes the book so great for me is the sheer tragedy of this boy s life and the unbelieveable sense of courage and optimism he showed throughout a life that would have caused most people to simply give up Valentino s courage is beyond belief As his story unfolds, it s unimaginable that he could have survived and it s heartbreaking how at each turn things continued to get worse His survival is a mystery that will never be solvedyet here he is as a young adult doing everything he can to help the world learn from his experience.The book was also a great history lesson about Sudan and Africa in general and gives the reader great insight into the troubles in Darfur today If the world does not learn from this story then perhaps we are doomed as a species.Finally, though the story is Valentino s, the writing is all Eggers He could have easily played the story as a straight biography, but instead Eggers weaves Valentino s life together in a beautiful way going back and forth between his time in Africa and his new life in Atlanta And while his life in Africa was indeed a horror, his life in the U.S is not much better and perhaps the biggest lesson of the book we have tried to help these Lost Boys but we are far from perfect and have made many mistakes as a society.It s ironic that this morning I awoke to a front page story in the Arizona Republic about a birthday celebration for Arizona s Lost Boys there are about 500 Sudanese boys living in the Valley They all celebrate their birthday on Jan 1 because they have no idea when they were really born.It s also ironic that I finished this book around the same time as I saw The Kite Runner When I read The Kite Runner, and even Hosseini s second novel A thousand Splendid Suns, I thought life was terrible for the Afghans but Valentino s real story makes the fictional story of the boys in The Kite Runner seem tame by comparison But together these stories make me feel both lucky to live in America and at the same time ashamed that the world can let things like this happen.As I sat reading Valentino s story on my sofa, I thought here is a boy who has experienced things I couldn t even imagine, while I sit in my 2100 square foot home with a fridge full of food, two cars, a happy and relatively healthy family, casually spending 4 for a cup of coffee and throwing outfood each day than Valentino ate in a month It reaffirms my political views and teaches me to be thankful for what I have andimportantly that I have a profound responsibility as a citizen of the world to help those who are less fortunate If you think that makes me a bleeding heart liberal than I m proud to wear that badge.Read this book It will change your life It takes a certain and rare kind of writer to make a story about civil war, genocide, and a refugee crisis boring and unreadable that writer, specifically, is Dave Eggers It s not that I don t understand the purpose that this book serves just as we import the Third World s raw resources to fuel our own material greed, so must we import their tragedies to break up the monotony of our lives My question is can t we get better books to do it First of all, the voice is terrible At points it r It takes a certain and rare kind of writer to make a story about civil war, genocide, and a refugee crisis boring and unreadable that writer, specifically, is Dave Eggers It s not that I don t understand the purpose that this book serves just as we import the Third World s raw resources to fuel our own material greed, so must we import their tragedies to break up the monotony of our lives My question is can t we get better books to do it First of all, the voice is terrible At points it reads like a parody of an American trying to imitate an African oh, wait, it is, although Dave Eggers has probably at least met some, so I don t know what his excuse is Take the very first sentence I have no reason not to answer the door so I answer the door What, did the Sudanese civil war rob fake Deng of the ability to use pronouns The language is stilted and formal in a very amateurish way, not at all the way a young man talks, and for no good reason.Second, why is it that going through a capital T Tragedy means that none of the characters are allowed to have personalities This happens all the time in fiction about genocide No one is allowed to be cowardly, or funny, or petty, or squabbling everyone must be stoic and long suffering, because they are Noble Victims, and that is how Noble Victims are supposed to act in real life, many people who go through tragedy tend to develop dark, savage senses of humor, but you wouldn t know that from reading this After all, you can only be a nuanced and articulated character if you grew up in the suburbs of America, preferably with an unhappy childhood and a substance abuse problem in college Third, Eggers writing is just flat and boring Take, for instance, Eggers describing an air raid But the plane returned a few minutes later, and soon after, there was a whistle Dut screamed to us that we needed to run but did not tell us where We ran in a hundred directions and two boys chose the wrong direction They ran for the shelter of a large tree and this is where the bomb struck That s it One of the most intense and terrifying things that can happen to you in life, and this is the treatment it gets The plane returned and soon there was a whistle Eggers writes like he just wants to get it over with Which I don t exactly blame him for There is a bit of unintentional humor when, in the present story, Deng tells Americans that he s from Sudan, but not Darfur, they quickly lose interest, because Americans only care about the foreign trouble spots that are hip to care about Dumb, trendy Americans But the real joke, of course, is that concurrent with the Sudanese civil war was is the one in the Congo, which dwarfs the Sudanese conflict in horror, body count, and anything else you can think of But Eggers, along with the rest of the world, doesn t care, because it s messy and complicated, whereas in Sudan you have Good Guys and Bad Guys Much easier to understand and much easier to sell books about.All that having been said, Eggers is a genius just not a literary genius He is a genius for pulling the ultimate bait and switch take someone else s story and then become the hero of it Because that is who the hero is here, Dave Eggers, even though he doesn t appear once in the actual plot After all, young Valentino s story would have remained untold if it were not for the Deus Ex Maquina of Dave Eggers, who tells it like no one else can Remember Eggers first book, A Staggering Work of Heartbreaking Genius That title wasn t cutesy and ironic, it was literal That s what Eggers wanted to write, and now he s given you one So what if the heartbreak is someone else s If you think I m being too harsh, then ask yourself this why didn t Eggers just write a nonfiction book, or a straight up biography of Deng At points, I m tempted to think that it s because he couldn t be bothered to do some basic research i.e., the repeated references to Darfurians Darfur means The Land of the Fur, the Fur being the people that live there, so this is sort of like referring to Polish people as The People From The Land of the Polish Also, the 1997 death of Princess Diana for some reason seems to come in the plot well after the 1998 African embassy bombings The answer is that Eggers needs to hide behind someone else s genuine suffering, because that defuses any criticism of his own lifeless, droning prose Insult Eggers, and you re insulting the sanctity of the Sudanese Lost Boys pain and suffering Point out the platitudes that Eggers shovels out in lieu of the real questions, which generally do not have easy answers or any answers at all, and you re heartless and callow It s not a hard shell game that Eggers plays here but there is none better at it than him I ve been thinking a lot about this book this morning I ve recommended it a few dozen times over the years I didn t even think about whether or not I had written a review I hadn t.I read this before I joined Goodreads in the days before I wrote reviews Those days are coming back again in my near future review retirement but that s another story to review ha.But I d like to share a little about this book I read in in 2006 and I still remember it like yesterday It s the t I ve been thinking a lot about this book this morning I ve recommended it a few dozen times over the years I didn t even think about whether or not I had written a review I hadn t.I read this before I joined Goodreads in the days before I wrote reviews Those days are coming back again in my near future review retirement but that s another story to review ha.But I d like to share a little about this book I read in in 2006 and I still remember it like yesterday It s the type of book that leaves a lasting impression It s extremely well written And for those who don t like other books by Dave Eggers I m not one of them this is not the book people turn their nose against This is a great book It was horrific how the Lost Boys lived day after day in Sudan starving being chased from village location to the next disease killing etc.and there is another appalling story to read about as well Dave Eggers gives us a fictional autobiography of the horrendous journey of one boy in particular named Valentino Deng It s a novel that reads like a memoir But what also makes this story unbelievable is what happens when Valentino is brought over to the United States He knows his host family and has made a few friends He is given an apartment to live in by himself He plans on attending community college I m leaving out lots of details.but in a very short time new in his apt Valentino gets mugged robbed and tied up For days nobody knew he was alone in bad condition on the floor of his own apt Welcome to America I can t recommend this book enough