This richly accomplished and satisfying novel, which engages both mind and heart, has rightly made the Orange Prize shortlist. Man Booker judges, where were you?
Readers who know of Aminatta Forna's family roots in Sierra Leone might expect a story that touches on the pitfalls of philanthropy to trace a familiar arc.
Naïve do-gooders blunder idealistically through a war-ravaged land... That motif does appear as, in Freetown, the troubled psychologist Adrian pursues his mission to heal souls splintered by the civil war.
But via the figures of local doctor Kai and the elderly, haunted Elias, Forna's subtle narrative branches out in new directions as the enigmas of love – and of memory – complicate both plot and mood.