This is a moving account of the basis of the current conflict in Sudan. Eggers creates an enthralling composite of individual accounts of the countless horrifying stories of the orphaned children of war, told from the point of view of the young refugee, Valentino Acack Deng. While the story tends to drag from time to time, it is wonderfully genuine and moving. I seriously considered reaching out to African refugees here in the states before forgetting about it and going back to playing Wii. Seriously a great novel, my favorite of his above A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.
I enjoy literary fiction with character depth and psychological exploration. I am in my 50s, work in psychology, and love the outdoors.
This novel is compelling in its ability to describe the experiences of one young man who lived to tell the tale of the loss of his homeland and his journey through the dessert as one of the "Lost Boys of Sudan". The protagonist is able to relay his story with humility and humor while providing the reader with a glimpse of the suffering, hardships and adventures of a remarkable young man coming of age while traveling the dessert with hundreds of other boys (and some girls) and then while living in a refugee camp. I knew almost nothing about the civil war in Sudan until listening to this book and, therefore, there is no background knowledge required to experience and to learn from this study. Not only was David Eggers able to draw me into the "story" but the author was also able to provide a rendition of this young man's harrowing journeys while providing the reader with chances to laugh and cry and experience interesting characters of all types. There is boyhood adventure, romance, humor, loss, joy, and sadness all while providing a glimpse into the life of the refugees that have worked so hard to adapt to life away from their homelands. This particular young man comes to the U.S.A. and the author has very creatively set the stage so that the reader can begin to understand the differences between the two worlds of these refugees. To top off this deeply interesting book, the narration is top-notch. Listening to the voice of Dion Graham further added to my experience of "knowing" the main character. Mr. Graham reads this novel/biography as though he is telling the story of his own life. It's just beautiful. I learned so much about contemporary Sudan as well as about the ability of humans to persevere, find humor, and meaning through the toughest of times. Each and every minute of this listen will be worth your time. I highly recommend.
Faced with mindless duty, when an audio book player slips into a rear pocket and mini buds pop into ears, old is made new again.
As Ronald Reagan famously said, “There you go again”. Dave Eggers writes another book about a tragic human event. However, Eggers avoids character controversy like that which followed “Zeitoun”, a story about the Katrina disaster. Eggers classifies “What Is the What” as a novel, without any claim to source-vetted facts or the integrity of its primary character.
"What Is the What" is about Sudan and its 20th century genocidal history. This is a clarifying story of the complex religious, ethnic, and moral conflict that exists in Sudan and in all nations peopled by extremes of wealth and poverty.
God offers man a choice of cows or something called the "What". God asks, “Do you want the cows or the What?" But, man asks, “What is the What”? God says, “The What is for you to decide.”
The father of the main character of "What is the What" explains that, with cows, a man has something; he learns how to care for something; becomes a good caretaker of a life-sustaining something, but a man who has no cows has nothing, cares about nothing; and only becomes a taker of other’s something.
What is the What? It is more than cows; it is the enlightenment brought from education that combats cultural ignorance, and religious intolerance; i.e. the "What" is that which celebrates freedom and equal opportunity for all.
This book ranks near the top of all the audiobooks I've listened to so far.
It is a first-person story, so I guess my favorite character is the main character, Valentino Ache (not sure of spelling).
I didn't have an extreme reaction, but I definitely looked forward to listening to it on my commute every day - I needed to find out what happened!
I would highly recommend this book.
I love listening and usually get in at least three hours a day. I like fiction, biographies and medical non-fiction.
I usually finish at least one audiobook a week. This book took me two months to complete, not because it was long (it is) but because it is very intense.
This is allegedly the true story of Valentino Achak Deng, a Sudanese boy whose village was bombed when he was about 6. He fled, became separated from his family and, by the end of the book, had lived in three other countries.
The first third of the book was the most difficult for me to listen to. Many young boys die terrible deaths, Valentino endures starvation and terror both in his life as a "Lost Boy" searching for a haven and as the victim of home invaders in the United States. The second third was more upbeat. The final third included the deaths of two of his closest friends.
I generally like my books to have a happy ending. This book does not really have an ending, as Valentino's life (I hope) goes on. He is not rich, famous or back with his family, but he is alive. Given what he's been through, that may be a triumph of sorts.
I felt that this book was too long, and the transitions between past and present were often annoying.
The narrator was quite good. I thought he was really African, until I heard him voice perfect American accents.
I'm not sorry I finished this book, but I would not recommend it to anyone looking for light listening or a deep understanding of the causes of the Sudanese war.
I have (unintentionally) read two books from Oprah's Book Club list, and wasn't impressed by either. So instead of jumping on the bandwagon and reading her selection about the Lost Boys of Sudan, read "What is the What" instead!
I didn't know anything about the plight of the Lost Boys before reading this book. Not only did I learn a great deal about them and African culture in general, but it was enjoyable doing it through the eyes of the main character Valentino. The story moves between the present and flashbacks, which made it even more interesting because the author could present Valentino the child's emotions and opinions about the event along with Valentino the adult's without strain. I was overwhelmed by the hardship one boy can endure and overcome. While this book is a fictionalized biography, I assume most of the larger events are true, which made it an even more gripping read. The narrator was also fantastic, and I was truly disappointed when it ended.
The only thing I disliked about this book, however, was the ending. Whether I wanted more finality or something more uplifting, I'm not sure. I just know I wasn't satisfied with the ending. But I'm still giving it 5 stars because it was interesting, engaging, thought-provoking, heartwrenching - everything a great book should be.
I've been grabbing every Eggers book I can get my hands on since I came across "A Heartbreaking Work...." This displays Eggers story telling ability on a grand, not-so-self-absorbed level. I was inspired. And the reading is one of the best readings I've ever listened to, Dion Graham really brought the story of Atchuk Deng to life.
The engaging story told by the author truly defines the meaning of survivor. The harrowing tale of Achak keeps the listener rapt with awe at what he and many others went through and actually survived. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for an inspiring tale of loss and survival.
This is so well written and the narrator is fabulous. African accented English makes it all believable. If you want background on the problems of Sudan, this is the book for you.
This is an engaging, powerful book, deftly written and superbly narrated. Eggers' book, though "fiction," is a lesson in history, suffering and the resilience of the human spirit. I recommend this book without reservation.