Truly a beautiful book! It's hard for me to imagine that this young, driven author was able to describe so well the aimlessness, the lack of drive and energy of Sepha. The novel is about Ethiopian immigrants, but it is really about anyone who is detatched and lost.
The setting is D. C., but it is really about any neighborhood which is in decline. The residents hate that the Circle is so poor and ugly and hate that its gentrification will dislocate them.
Sepha easily falls in love with ten year old Naomi, and her mother, Judith. Is it them that he loves or is he missing his family, which he has abandoned. He reveres his uncle, yet contemplates stealing the old man's savings.
A turning point for Sepha is Judith's off hand comment,"It looks like you've gone and picked the wrong family." He can't get past this. He can't stay on course to make this family or any family, his own.
Of course Sepha has an excuse. He had to flee a bloody, useless revolution. Sepha made many choices by not choosing, not opening his store early, not stocking it, not cleaning it. Luckily for us, although Mengestu also fled from Ethiopia during the Red Terror, he has managed to write a novel about isolated immigrants and isolated people who are easily recognized today and sorrowfully tomorrow.