The five women featured in the nine stories of Susi Wyss’s debut, The Civilized World (Holt, $15), are from various cultures and countries linked by the commonalities of life: longing, fear, love, grief. As the stories progress, the women’s lives intersect and the novelistic aspects of the book emerge. In “Names,” Ophelia, the wife of an American Foreign Service Officer, writes down the names of Malawians she meets—a desperate attempt to manage the emotions around her infertility. Ophelia reappears in “Waiting for Solomon” as she tours Ethiopia with Janice while both women wait for child adoptions to be finalized. In the last story, “There Are No Accidents,” Janice happens upon a beauty salon in Ghana run by her former employee, Adjoa, whose twin brother robbed Janice’s house. Wyss’s humane portrait of modern Africa and African women is carefully drawn and astutely, beautifully delivered.
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