Hiding in Plain Sight by Nuruddin Farah begins with a violent terrorist attack on the United Nations office in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, but from that suspenseful opening springs a surprisingly uneventful domestic drama about being (or feeling like) foreigners in a country, with discussions of cultural differences and cultural attitudes about homosexuality threaded throughout.
When her half brother, Aar, who worked for the United Nations, is killed by the bomb explosion, just before he headed home to Nairobi, a grieving Bella hurries from her apartment in Rome to Nairobi to care for her teenaged niece and nephew, whose mother had left them at a very early age. The situation becomes more complicated when the long-estranged mother shows up in Nairobi with her lesbian lover, Padmini. These five become the main cast of characters in the story, with Aar at the center, though not present.
Actress Robin Miles has won many awards for her audiobook narrations; she voices all the parts well here, especially Bella’s. Bella, as her name indicates, is model-quality beautiful and also an acclaimed art photographer who travels around the world and has lovers in several countries –no baggage or strings attached – but she seems to have no second thoughts as she (devoted sister and aunt) drops everything to fly to Kenya and pick up parental responsibility for her brother’s children. (Granted, the children are teenagers who attend boarding school in Nairobi, so won’t require constant care.) Robin Miles creates empathy for Bella in the listener, despite Bella’s perfect life.
Hiding in Plain Sight is a believable story about a well-off, well-educated, but unconventional family, and I grew to care about the characters. Recommended for audiobook listeners who are interested in thinking about the different forms that intimacy can take, and the push and pull of family and society vs. the individual, with the addition of characters from various countries, races, and cultures to make it more interesting. (Countries on four continents are represented.)
Hiding in Plain Sight
Farah, Nuruddin, author
Miles, Robin, narrator
Recorded Books, 2014
11.5 hours/10 CDs
Disclosure: I received a free review copy of this audiobook from the publisher.