James A. Levine
For fans of Dave Eggers, Teju Cole, and James McBride, comes this extraordinary novel of morality and the redemptive powers of art that offers a glimpse into an African underworld rarely described in fiction.
Meet Bingo, the greatest drug runner in the slums of Kibera, Nairobi, and maybe the world. A teenage grifter, often mistaken for a younger boy, he faithfully serves Wolf, the drug lord of Kibera. Bingo spends his days throwing rocks at Krazi Hari, the prophet of Kibera's garbage mound, "lipping" safari tourists of their cash, and hanging out with his best friend, Slo-George, a taciturn fellow whose girth is a mystery to Bingo in a place where there is never enough food. Bingo earns his keep by running "white" to a host of clients, including Thomas Hunsa, a reclusive artist whose paintings, rooted in African tradition, move him. But when Bingo witnesses a drug-related murder and Wolf sends him to an orphanage for "protection," Bingo's life changes and he learns that life itself is the "run."
A modern trickster tale that draws on African folklore, Bingo's Run is a wildly original, often very funny, and always moving story of a boy alone in a corrupt and dangerous world who must depend on his wits and inner resources to survive.
ONE OF LIBRARY JOURNAL'S OUTSTANDING NEW VOICES TO CONSIDER
"Bingo's voice guides us; by turns he is aggressive, confident, smart, cynical, but also naive. Bingo tosses his observations at us with great urgency, almost percussively, in a staccato manner that recalls gunshots. And though he's blunt, he's also a sensitive observer. . . . Levine is creating a sense of an entire world, raffish and fast. . . . The larger story Levine is telling . . . is the story of a person's mind, and of the good, bad, and indifferent forces that make him what he is--and that story is told with compassion and intelligence."--The Boston Globe
"James A. Levine is a deeply gifted writer who reaches into the dirt, sweat, and diesel of modern-day Nairobi and introduces us to a young innocent whose adventures are unforgettable. Bingo's runs between joy and death, laughter and sorrow, survival and redemption, will make you feel like cheering."--James McBride, author of The Good Lord Bird and The Color of Water
"Bingo's Run is one of those rare books that infuse a potentially difficult subject with intimacy, tenderness, and humor. Social commentary, gritty comedy, and pure cinematic adrenaline meet in an utterly compelling novel with a voice all its own."--Tash Aw, author of Five Star Billionaire
"Bingo's Run manages to read like timely news and high adventure at the same time. Levine's main character, Bingo, is an underage drug runner, hardened orphan, and hustler extraordinaire. He's also funny and wise well beyond his years. The rousing story of Bingo's evolution is matched only by Levine's portrait of modern-day Nairobi, both child and city depicted with real flair and affection."--Victor LaValle, author of The Devil in Silver
"Bingo is a fascinating and inimitably likable character. Levine, a Mayo clinic professor of medicine and well-known child advocate, excels at telling his adventurous, comic, and realistically gritty story with humor but not with pathos, successfully addressing the harsh and sometimes tragic story of a child at risk."--Library Journal
From the Hardcover edition.
the street. He repeated, “Bingo, God is love, and love is money. That is the essence of Christ’s teaching on earth.” I had heard many people talk about God. In Kibera there were nuns, preachers, and do-gooders who spoke about God as an invisible cloud that looks out for you: God the helper. At the School of Benevolent Innocence, they spoke about God the teacher. Mama made me write out the Good News Bible—two pages every day: God the writer. There was the nun who lived on the Condom Bus that went
coughed before he spoke. “Mrs. Steele, just one last thing.” He coughed again. “The adoption fee”—cough—“for St. Michael’s.” The priest’s face was as white as the tablecloth. “As you can see, Mrs. Steele, we have such an urgent need of these funds.” Mrs. Steele said, “Of course, Father Matthew. Let me just call my lawyer in the States and make sure the funds have been wired.” The priest’s thin lips formed the threat of a smile. “Oh yes, that would be the Mr. Scott Goerlmann I have been
hers. That is the way it is in America. We share.” He sighed. “You have to understand, Bingo, selling art isn’t as simple as it seems. Think of it this way—you and Colette are partners.” All I could think about was how Mrs. Steele wanted to outhustle me. They did not know that Charity had told me that the Hunsa paintings were worth millions and that once Mrs. Steele had them, she planned to dump me. “No, fook,” I said. Mrs. Steele looked up sharp. Sparks of white anger flew through her dark eyes
with light. Then it was dark, utter black darkness. * Soup. Chapter 44. Nyayo House A gray blanket lay over me. I was cold. It felt like death was a close friend about to visit. I was in a windowless cell lit by one electric bulb. The door was dark green iron. The bed was wire. The walls smelled of rot. I guessed this was Nyayo House, Nairobi’s famous prison. I pulled the blanket up to my neck. It was stained with maroon blotches. Time passed. The back of my head hurt. I thought, Would Mrs.
vanished into Siemens’s giant mouth. The Thaatima went first. He had to take his computer out of his brown businessman bag. He then put his gold pen, belt, hat, shoes, and mobile on a separate tray. This place was a thief’s paradise! Mrs. Steele was next; she just had her black handbag. I was last. I put my silver cross in a tray by itself—Jesus crucified alone. The girl said to me, “Put your suitcase on the belt, sa.” I swung my red suitcase onto the belt on my third try. I smiled at the girl,