The Civilized World by Susi Wyss
Published by Holt Paperbacks, an imprint of Macmillan
Review copy provided by the publicist
The Civilized World, a novel in stories, features a host of characters and several different plot lines. So to save myself time and anguish, instead of summarizing it for you I’ll just use the publisher’s summary.
When Adjoa leaves Ghana to find work in the Ivory Coast, she hopes that one day she’ll return home to open a beauty parlor. Her dream comes true, though not before she suffers a devastating loss—one that will haunt her for years, and one that also deeply affects Janice, an American aid worker who no longer feels she has a place to call home. But the bustling Precious Brother Salon is not just the “cleanest, friendliest, and most welcoming in the city.” It’s also where locals catch up on their gossip; where Comfort, an imperious busybody, can complain about her American daughter-in-law, Linda; and where Adjoa can get a fresh start on life—or so she thinks, until Janice moves to Ghana and unexpectedly stumbles upon the salon.
At once deeply moving and utterly charming, The Civilized World follows five women as they face meddling mothers-in-law, unfaithful partners, and the lingering aftereffects of racism, only to learn that their cultural differences are outweighed by their common bond as women. With vibrant prose, Susi Wyss explores what it means to need forgiveness—and what it means to forgive.
Another reason I’m using the publisher’s summary here is because attempting to write this review is reminding me of what a bad blogger I have become. I know that I really enjoyed The Civilized World but unfortunately I can’t remember much else about it. Horrible, right? Part of it has to do with the fact that I read the book over a month before writing this review. (Hence the bad blogger.)
But anyways, I typically love books written in this novel-in-stories format, and The Civilized World was no different. I definitely enjoyed getting to know the characters, and while there were many of them for such a short book, I had no trouble keeping them straight. And I remember thinking the writing was beautiful.
I’ll leave you with this: if you like multicultural fiction and/or novels disguised as short stories, give The Civilized World a try.