All Our Names
Helen and her latest client couldn’t be more different. Helen has never left her Midwestern hometown, and, in her effort to be nothing like her mother, she’s mostly succeeded in being no one at all. A social worker for a slowly dying relief agency, Helen meets Issac when she is given the assignment to help the African visitor navigate the intricacies of middle America. From the beginning she suspects that Issac is not his name and that there’s a story he’s not telling. But how can Issac tell his story—a story of revolution, senseless death, fear, and displacement—to someone like Helen? To anyone at all? He’s answered to many names since he left his father and his village, and he’ll never go back. Their love is one of silences and the things not said.
All Our Names alternates between Helen and Issac’s perspective. While Helen frets about the state of their relationship, Issac remembers the origins of his friendship with the original Issac: their protests at the university, the devolution of the state into martial law, and the ensuing revolution. As Helen develops the story of her love for the present Issac, he’s remembering his love for his friend. The contrast between Issac’s past and Helen’s present make Issac’s story even more surreal and the distance between the two states even more dramatic.
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