A novel of exhilarating range, magical realism, and history—a dazzling retelling of Liberia’s formation.
Wayétu Moore’s powerful debut novel, She Would Be King, reimagines the dramatic story of Liberia’s early years through three unforgettable characters who share an uncommon bond. Gbessa, exiled from the West African village of Lai, is starved, bitten by a viper, and left for dead, but still she survives. June Dey, raised on a plantation in Virginia, hides his unusual strength until a confrontation with the overseer forces him to flee. Norman Aragon, the child of a white British colonizer and a Maroon slave from Jamaica, can fade from sight when the earth calls him. When the three meet in the settlement of Monrovia, their gifts help them salvage the tense relationship between the African American settlers and the indigenous tribes, as a new nation forms around them.
Moore’s intermingling of history and magical realism finds voice not just in these three characters but also in the fleeting spirit of the wind, who embodies an ancient wisdom. “If she was not a woman,” the wind says of Gbessa, “she would be king.” In this vibrant story of the African diaspora, Moore, a talented storyteller and a daring writer, illuminates with radiant and exacting prose the tumultuous roots of a country inextricably bound to the United States. She Would Be King is a novel of profound depth set against a vast canvas and a transcendent debut from a major new author.
“Loneliness while in the presence of others is a most cruel kind.”
Wayétu Moore, She Would Be King
Moore is a magical and magnificent storyteller. She Would Be King was engaging and fascinating. I love and gravitate towards strong female characters, and Moore delivered! Hands down, Gbessa was my favorite character. She was resourceful, smart, and courageous. I was cheering for her the entire time! Moore did a fantastic job bringing Liberia’s forgotten history to life. The details and originality were amazing! If you enjoy historical fiction and magical realism, be sure to add She Would Be King to your stack.