When Bella learns of the murder of her beloved half brother by political extremists in Mogadiscio, she’s in Rome. The two had different fathers but shared a Somali mother, from whom Bella’s inherited her freewheeling ways. An internationally known fashion photographer, dazzling but aloof, she comes and goes as she pleases, juggling three lovers. But with her teenage niece and nephew effectively orphaned – their mother abandoned them years ago—she feels an unfamiliar surge of protective feeling. Putting her life on hold, she journeys to Nairobi, where the two are in boarding school, uncertain whether she can—or must—come to their rescue. When their mother resurfaces, reasserting her maternal rights and bringing with her a gale of chaos and confusion that mirror the deepening political instability in the region, Bella has to decide how far she will go to obey the call of sisterly responsibility.
A new departure in theme and setting for “the most important African novelist to emerge in the past twenty-five years” (The New York Review of Books) Hiding in Plain Sight, is a profound exploration of the tensions between freedom and obligation, the ways gender and sexual preference define us, and the unexpected paths by which the political disrupts the personal.
“This novel — Farah’s 12th — takes us deep into the domestic life of a sophisticated African family, with great emotional effect… Each of the kids…becomes starkly real in their intelligence, ingenuity, anger, and grief. Even their outrageous mother (and her selfish choices) seems credible …This family, our families, Africa and Europe and America, have never seemed closer in the way we live now — and this engaging novel, from its explosive beginning to its complex yet uplifting last scenes, shows us why.” —Alan Cheuse, NPR
“Absorbing and provocative… [Farah’s] characters are given heft through personal histories and anecdotes, and he writes evocatively about everything from Nairobi traffic to Kenyan game reserves to, importantly, how Somalis are seen not just through the eyes of others, but through their own.” (4 stars) —USA Today
“Hiding in Plain Sight may begin with a terrorist attack…but this is not a novel about violence…The rewards of reading Hiding in Plain Sight lie in Farah’s sensitive exploration of grief and his depiction of a family’s love for one another…Farah is particularly adept at evoking the way in which the sight of a familiar face or place can trigger painful memories and how comfort can come to us from unexpected sources.” —New York Times Book Review
“[Hiding in Plain Sight] …rattles the cage of conventional thinking about family, gender, and sexuality as they apply to the African context. At once conscientious and demanding, nuanced and aggressive, it is a novel that is sure to be featured in the year-end awards lists.” —Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“Farah…has long been a literary emissary of his native land, which political strife and civil war have turned into a nation of refugees…The whole novel, in fact, might be read as a sort of map of displaced people….[and] the practicalities and mechanics of going on, conducting grief — as much for a lost homeland as for a brother and father — out of hiding and into the plain, often all too general, business of everyday life.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Farah… puts his skilled character development on display in this latest work…[and] does a fine job illustrating the competing societal forces in African culture — from the cosmopolitan nightlife of Nairobi to the pervasive violence and oppression in places like Somalia…an engaging read.” —The NY Daily News
“A rich exploration of political and social crises…[and] a sensitive story about living in the shadow of grief, learning to forgive and trying to answer the question, “What does it mean to be Somali in this day and age?” —Washington Post
“True to Farah’s style, Hiding in Plain Sight is strange and haunting… His writing borders on the poetic…Scenes of everyday life…lull us into believing the story could be unfolding anywhere, until we’re jolted by mentions of blast-proof windows next to the flatscreen TV or metal detectors at the mall entrance…[Hiding in Plain Sight] adds to an impressive four-decade body of work that has helped illuminate a country and culture that might otherwise have remained hidden behind the fog of war.” —Toronto Star
“Somalian writer Nuruddin Farah is known for exploring complex themes and emotions in his books and his 12th novel, “Hiding In Plain Sight” is no exception…[the novel] asks bold questions: What do you do when obligation and desire collide? How far do familial obligations go? How do you move on from a deep tragedy? It also asks questions about what it means to be Somalian today, admist the chaos…If you are looking to spend [a] rainy weekend curled up with a book that…will ultimately leave you feeling enlightened, you can’t go wrong with this one.” —NY Metro
“Farah’s powerful story of a shattered family makes vivid the human repercussions of political chaos and violence.”—BBC.com
“Gracefully pulling together social issues with the seismography of a single family and underscoring it all with hints at the Somali diaspora of the 1990s, Farah once again offers a complex look at the struggle and joy of finding home” —Shelf Awareness
“With delicacy and compassion, Farah…fashions a domestic chamber piece where motives, yearnings and regrets intersect among these complex, volatile personalities against a wider backdrop of religious and cultural conflict, social and political upheaval, and even “family values” in post-millennial Africa …. An unassuming triumph of straightforward, topical storytelling that both adds to and augments a body of work worthy of a Nobel Prize.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred)
Praise for Crossbones
“Politically courageous and often gripping.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Often reads like a taut, tense thriller . . . a thought-provoking read as well as an absorbing look into a culture and a people in extreme circumstances.” —The Philadelphia Inquirer
HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT is only the second novel of Nuruddin Farah’s that I’ve edited, although I was aware of – and in awe of – his international reputation long before. What I’ve come to appreciate most deeply in working with him is how human-scale his stories are, how intimate the connections they explore between friends and lovers and family members, wherever they live.
This latest novel is a bit of a departure for Nuruddin. It opens briefly in his native Somalia, where Aar is killed in a suicide bombing at the UN compound where he works. His half-sister, Bella, a globe-trotting photographer, returns to her home in Rome to news of his death. Farah is known for his feisty female characters, but Bella – sophisticated, nontraditional, impossible to pigeonhole or fence in – is a true free spirit. So the dilemma that faces her, whether to give up her independence for the sake of her beloved brother’s children in Nairobi, is a particularly dramatic one. And with the arrival of the children’s mother, a drama queen who has long ago abandoned them but now resurfaces with her girlfriend to stake her claim to them, things get really interesting.
I loved watching how Nuruddin lets his characters unfold, and the detail with which he conveys daily lives that are in some ways very much like our own, against the backdrop of a tumultuous and sometimes violent culture. Tragically, just as Farah was finishing his initial draft of the novel, his own cherished sister, a humanitarian aid worker who had devoted herself to working with refugees, was killed in a bombing in Kabul that eerily mirrored the novel’s opening. In the months that followed, Nuruddin, deep in mourning, nevertheless pushed through the revisions. I believe that the loss suffuses the novel, heightening the heartbreaking and gorgeous contrast between the countless small ways we care for one another and the forces over which we have no control.
Editorial Director, Riverhead Books