by Maya Binyam
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Pub Date 08 Aug 2023 | Archive Date 30 Sep 2023
An enthralling and original first novel about exile, diaspora, and the impossibility of Black refuge in America and beyond.
In the morning, I received a phone call and was told to board a flight. The arrangements had been made on my behalf. I packed no clothes, because my clothes had been packed for me. A car arrived to pick me up.
A man returns home to sub-Saharan Africa after twenty-six years in America. When he arrives, he finds that he doesn’t recognize the country or anyone in it. Thankfully, someone recognizes him, a man who calls him brother—setting him on a quest to find his real brother, who is dying.
In Hangman, Maya Binyam tells the story of that search, and of the phantoms, guides, tricksters, bureaucrats, debtors, taxi drivers, relatives, and riddles that will lead to the truth.
This is an uncommonly assured debut: an existential journey; a tragic farce; a slapstick tragedy; and a strange, and strangely honest, story of one man’s stubborn quest to find refuge—in this world and in the world that lies beyond it.
A Note From the Publisher
★ “A fantastical journey reveals a wounded heart. Making an assured debut, Binyam spins a haunting, often surreal tale . . . A savvy, wildly imaginative narrative.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“[A] beguiling and dreamlike debut . . . leads to an ending that’s twisty and illuminating. Along the way, the narrator has a series of . . . mordantly funny encounters that highlight themes of colonialism and cultural differences . . . This is one of those novels that demands a second reading, and is well worth the time.” —Publishers Weekly
“Hangman is a gripping story of homecoming and loss, of recuperation and letting go, all of it told in a voice that is at turns ruthlessly honest and startlingly beautiful. Maya Binyam is an immensely gifted writer and every page of this deeply moving novel offers us compelling and hard-earned truths. But what remains by the end is something that resembles a loving gesture from a long-lost relative: necessary and seismic, profound and unforgettable.” —Maaza Mengiste, author of The Shadow King, finalist for the Booker Prize
“Maya Binyam exquisitely captures unseen forces: the edges of consciousness, abstract political forces, and how they act on one another. Hangman is immersive and astonishing.” —Tavi Gevinson
“Daring, intellectually rich, and unsettlingly hilarious, Hangman is the rare book agile enough to balance the surreality and painfully rigid actuality of life. We have a powerful new voice in Maya Binyam, one who knows how to make a story sing.” —Alexandra Kleeman, author of Something New Under the Sun
“A strikingly masterful debut. With a slow, sure hand, Hangman beckons you into a zone that at first seems as clear, as blank, and as eerily sunny as the pane of a window. Then it traps you there, until you notice the blots, bubbles, and fissures in the glass—and then the frame itself, then the shatter. A clean, sharp, piercing—and deeply political—novel.” —Namwali Serpell, author of The Furrows
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 20 members
What a strange, challenging gem of a novel. HANGMAN tells the story of an unnamed narrator who journeys to his homeland for reasons that are not initially quite clear. The tone is at times wry, the novel in itself a bit voice-y. The closest corollary I could think of is the Outline trilogy, as here too the narrative unfolds via confession after confession that strangers force onto the narrator. Though I thought about Katie Kitamura's most recent novels, too, as the story feels darker and more consequential than the Cusk trilogy.
I look forward to reading what Binyam writes next.
Thanks to the publisher for the e-galley!
Original, startling, captivating, hypnotic. The closest reading experience I can think of to this book is REMAINDER by Tom McCarthy--the same disorientation, the same need for me as a reader to pay absolute attention and to not allow my focus to waver or I'll drop the thread, the same wild leaps out-of-bounds of what I expected to read next. The same ... the word I'm coming up with is "existential dread" but the effect of this novel is both deeper and lighter than this phrase would suggest. I'm very glad to have read it, and I recommend it to everyone whose heart is thrilled when you pick up a book and read its first pages and you think 'oh, my, I've never read anything like this before.'