Long Way Gone is the sort of true story that sticks with you for a long time after you finished reading. Beah’s follow-up book, Radiance of Tomorrow (Sarah Crichton Books/FSG), is a novel, yet the memoir-to-novel transition seems to have presented little difficulty for Beah. In his author’s note, he writes, “I bring a lot of [the] oral tradition to my writing, and I let it seep into the words.” That oral tradition has helped him construct his breathtaking novel, which looks at the aftermath of the war in his homeland, and the people whose lives it ruined.
Radiance of Tomorrow is all about finding balance in a story where balance shouldn’t be a possibility. Beah contrasts the natural beauty of Imperi with the harrowing imagery of the war, from rockets “bringing down the walls and killing many people, whose flesh sizzled from the explosions” to a commander’s instructions for how to chop off the hands of villagers, calling an above-the-wrist cut a “short sleeve,” and a below-the-wrist cut a “long sleeve.” In relating these experiences with the authenticity of an author who witnessed them (or, in some cases, an author who heard about them from eyewitnesses), Beah has given us a story with the lingering power to convey just how truly horrible war can be. It’s a rare thing for a novel to succeed in hammering that home, and just one of the many things that make Beah’s first novel another of his books that you must read.