National Endowment for the Arts - The Big Read
The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears

The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears

by Dinaw Mengestu

The stories he invented himself he told with particular delight. They all began in the same way, with the same lighthearted tone, with a small wave of the hand, as if the world were being brushed to the sideā€¦


Dinaw Mengestu. Copyright Matthieu Zazzo.

Willing Davidson: Along with his relationship with Judith, he also becomes friends with her 11-year-old daughter, who is something of a handful. She's not the kind of girl who sits on a stool and smiles sweetly. She is a challenge, and there's something about Stephanos that makes it so that they have a very quick connection. Stephanos is in his late thirties, probably—we're never exactly told, but he's been in the U.S. for 17 years—and this is an 11-year-old girl. And, slowly, she starts hanging out at his store. She has been to the library and brought back a sack of books that are way above her age level, and she and Stephanos start to take turns reading Dostoyevsky to each other. Now, in the hands of a less graceful writer, this could be a real stumbling block—the idea of an 11-year-old girl and a man in his late thirties reading Dostoyevsky together—but Dinaw has such a light, graceful touch that this really works. We see them having a real bond, and towards the end of the novel, Naomi becomes one of the characters we really remember most.

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