Truth is a Flightless Bird
by Akbar Hussain
This title was previously available on NetGalley and is now archived.
Send NetGalley books directly to your Kindle or Kindle app
To read on a Kindle or Kindle app, please add firstname.lastname@example.org as an approved email address to receive files in your Amazon account. Click here for step-by-step instructions.
Also find your Kindle email address within your Amazon account, and enter it here.
Pub Date 24 Oct 2022 | Archive Date 06 Dec 2022
Truth is a Flightless Bird has been optioned for a TV mini-series
President Obama's impending arrival to Nairobi is the electric backdrop to this dazzling debut. Yet, beneath the glittering celebrations, beats the pulse of a city aflame.
It is into this crucible that Nice (real name Theresa) lands, fleeing her Somali drug-dealer boyfriend, her brutal UN work in Mogadishu, and the life choices stalking her. So desperate is she to flee that she involves one of her oldest friends, Duncan, an American pastor heading a church in Nairobi. On the way back from the airport, their car crashes, and Nice is abducted by a crooked immigration cop, Hinga.
Duncan awakes after the car crash to find himself captive to the sociopathic Hinga, and the charmingly amoral Ciru. Plucked from his middle-class bubble, Duncan must plunge into the moral complexities of the under-city to rescue Nice. But how deep can Duncan go, without destroying his faith, and himself?
Truth is a Flightless Bird is a brutal love letter to the frontier town that is present-day Nairobi: a studied observation of the failures of bare-knuckled capitalism, the inequality machines our cities have become, and—ultimately—the profoundly irrational human capacity to hope, to risk everything in order to have something in which to believe. With Truth is a Flightless Bird, Hussain establishes a remarkable voice, one truly his own.
A Note From the Publisher
A lawyer and co-founder of a successful fintech startup, Akbar Hussain lived in Nairobi for 7 years and currently resides in New York. His work has been published in Type/Cast Literary Journal and the Johannesburg Review of Books. Truth is a Flightless Bird is his first novel and has been optioned for an eight-part television miniseries with the UK-based Chudor House Productions.
"Hussain’s Truth is A Flightless Bird is a fast-paced story set in an African city that never sleeps. Like the characters of the novel, he manages to capture a city that’s as unpredictable as it is memorable. A noteworthy debut."
– Zukiswa Wanner, London Cape Town Joburg
"Great stories change the way you see the world. Truth is a Flightless Bird is a savage love letter to Nairobi, and a chronicle of the human heart."
– Laurence Daren King, author, Boxy an Star
"Truth is a Flightless Bird is a brilliantly pulled-off city noir that shocks and excites. Akbar has created a delicious blend of nail-biting suspense."
– Leye Adenle, author, When Trouble Sleeps
Average rating from 6 members
The prose is short, quick, and not really my type. However, I think the subject is relevant. Thus the 5-star rating.
Thrillers are not usually my jam, but after reading Truth is a Flightless Bird I wonder if they should be! This novel was a breathless rush from beginning to end. I can see how this would make a fantastic television series and I am looking forward to seeing the unravelling around Duncan, Ciru, and Nice on the screen. I even want to see Toogood -- which is a commendation to Hussain's skill at writing terrific flawed villains.
The novel is explosive from the get-go. Nice is a drug mule flying from Mogadishu (Somalia) to Nairobi (Kenya) and Duncan, her friend and a pastor, is unwittingly dragged into the mess that she has made of this illicit mission. The story revolves around Duncan's nightmare as drug dealers, corrupt officials, petty thieves, and others attempt to take advantage of Nice and the dangerous situation which naturally results from ingesting and walking around with drugs in your body. Ciru is one of those individuals who attempts to use Nice and the drugs to further her own agenda. She is a witch doctor, a con-woman, a mother who has lost her wayward child due to the machinations of others further up in the drug-smuggling world. Toogood is a Somalian gangster, also trapped in this convoluted drug-criminal world trying to make amends for a past he had little control over. Then there is Edmund, a young man deported from the United States, and Hinga, a corrupt police officer, and a crew of other characters who each come into the tale with their own ambitions.
As a thriller, there isn't much interiority to these characters, but the reader will discover that no one is who they seem to be on the surface. The truth matters very little in this underbelly world; what matters is using what you have to get what you need or what you want. I don't usually try to read too much into thrillers; but, it is here -- in this discussion of the utility of truth -- that Hussain's title has to give the reader pause to reflect. There is something being said here about the futility of struggling against tides that are out of our control. Truth is one of those obstacles, or at least, the idea that there is a single Truth, capital T. All the characters of this novel, Duncan, Nice, Ciru, and Toogood, have found themselves in situations less than ideal, despite their best efforts. The truth, their truth, does not matter to the forces and people who hold the reins of their lives. It should not even matter to themselves; to survive Nairobi they've got to let go of the idea that there is only one truth, one version of events, one version of a person. They have to let go of an idea of themselves that either doesn't really exist or will drag them down. In a way, their blind pursuit of truth stifles them, prevents them from taking flight -- being free.
The novel also makes a subtle comment on the corruptibility of the human soul -- and the possibility of redemption. As events unfold, it becomes clear that the characters are more than what they appear. They are flawed, corrupted, but that doesn't mean they are wholly bad people. The bad decisions they've made in their lives should not define them, but inevitably do. The novel is about their attempts to right their wrongs. Some of them succeed, some of them fail -- and spectacularly. Entwined in a drug-smuggling mess the characters find that one error leads to another one, deeper and darker and more dangerous than the last.
Plot and characters aside, Truth is a Flightless Bird is a fantastic novel of place. It gives the reader a view into a world most of us will never get to see or experience in person: the seedy underworld of Nairobi and Mogadishu. I don't doubt these worlds really exist. Every city in the world has its unsavory parts, its criminal societies, and there are good people everywhere who are drowned in it. People like Nice and Duncan and Ciru. Even Hinga and Toogood. The interactions of the
With its intriguing title, Truth is a Flightless Bird by Akbar Hussain is a debut literary fiction novel. It is set in Nairobi just prior to an imminent American Presidential visit by Barack Obama. A female United Nations worker returning from Mogadishu named Nice, is carrying drugs in her stomach and comes under the attention of Hinga, a corrupt immigration police officer. Duncan, an American pastor and friend, picks up Nice at the airport, but their car is forced off the road and Nice is abducted. Duncan awakens to discover he is a captive of Hinga and enlists the help of Ciru, a ruthless woman able to navigate the city’s dark underbelly. In the final chapter as the climax occurs, the radio plays Presidential Obama’s speech as a juxtaposition of the unfolding events. Its easy-flowing narrative captures the ambiance of Nairobi and its machinations played out in this enjoyable tale with a three star rating. My thanks to Iskanchi Press and the author, for an uncorrected advanced reader copy for review purposes. As always, the opinions herein are totally my own and freely given.
Enjoyable book! Rate 3.75
US President Barack Obama is scheduled to visit and Nairobi is abuzz. But the real story for us is related via several characters: Nice, Duncan, Ciru, and Toogood. All of them in difficult circumstances, all of them connected in some way to the illegal drug trade.
With their stories, comes the story of two cities, and much about the culture within. You are transplanted to the unsavoury parts of the drug world, good and bad. Much like the characters, also not all bad and not all good.
Review at Murder in Common:
Readers who liked this book also liked:
Naoya Imanishi, MEd
Sara LaFleur, MD
May B. Gigglin
Perhat Tursun. Translated by Darren Byler and Anonymous
Anne Mette Hancock