Such a Beautiful Thing to Behold
reviewed by Fiona Cook
It all starts with a sickness – the Grey, which steals color from its victims and saps their will to live. It quickly overtakes the small African village of Pilam, and when the rest of the world reacts by brutally enforcing a complete quarantine, they’re left to live or die alone.
Such a Beautiful Thing to Behold follows one family, two brothers and two sisters, who’ve lost their parents and now must navigate this new world with only each other.
It wasn’t an easy life for the family at the heart of Such a Beautiful Thing to Behold before they lost their parents, and even less after – the arrival of the Grey and the devastation it brings is going to require everything they can give to survive. With the siblings divided and their future uncertain, it’s no small journey they face.
This is Umar Turaki’s first novel, and pardon the pun, but color me impressed. His writing has the confidence of a much more seasoned author, and with a deceptively simple turn of phrase manages to vividly evoke the small-town setting of his story. Characters, the situations they face, and the emotions of living through a life-changing catastrophe are all communicated to the reader in such a way that they feel real and immediate – I didn’t have to work at putting myself in someone else’s shoes, it felt like the author transported me there. Whether there was heartbreak, joy, or out and out despair, I was right there with them.
No matter how terrible the circumstances – and there are some dark moments in this book, Umar Turaki isn’t glossing over the reality of how bad this situation could get – the changing perspectives kick in at exactly the right times to break the tension and allow a little hope back for the reader. I loved this book and the cast of characters it introduced me to – it’s a beautiful book, and even more impressive as a debut. You may cry – I did – but it’s more than worth it.