Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible (1998)*
This family tale set in the 1950s/1960s Congo is one of my favorites. It divides its narrative among the female members of the Price family, who have been brought to the area by the head of the family, Nathan, who is determined to convert the local natives to Christianity. Nathan’s efforts are largely futile because he doesn’t bother to learn the village’s culture, but his wife and four very different daughters are much more observant. Their reflections and adventures in their new home are, in turns, tragic and hilarious.
*Ebook also available on Libby.
Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o’s Wizard of the Crow (2006)
This satiric novel by Kenyan author Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o takes place in a fictional African country, Aburĩria. In this fictional dictatorship, the country’s leadership devises ludicrous schemes of self-promotion (one involving the Tower of Babel) while an unemployed college graduate and his girlfriend decide that they might as well take advantage of the chaos by establishing their own wizarding shop. Local residents decide that, all things considered, relying on a fake wizard is no less weird than anything else going on in the country. Critics lauded this novel for being equal parts insightful and funny.
Sally Beauman’s The Visitors (2015)
Travel back in time to 1920s Egypt and join the expedition to find King Tut’s tomb. Interwoven with the true tale of Howard Carter’s discovery of Tut’s final resting place is the story of 11 year old Lucy, who is in Egypt to regain her health after a nasty bout of typhoid fever, and her friendship with Frances, the daughter of one of the archaeologists. Beauman received a lot of praise when this book was released last summer for her vivid portraits of the various Egyptian settings, especially the Valley of the Kings.