The Beauty Queen of Bonthe and Other Stories of West Africa

By Gregory A. Barnes. FriendsPress, 2018. 194 pages. $12/paperback.

It was a pleasure to read some of this collection and discover that Friend Gregory Barnes has a wonderfully entertaining style, draws believable characters, and has the skill to build suspense. It’s hard to write the ending of a story, but Barnes does that skillfully and satisfyingly, too.

The ideas for these seven stories came from Barnes’s living in West Africa in the 1960s, starting in 1961 as a member of the brand new Peace Corps. At that time, he was in countries that had only just emerged from a colonial period, and their societies were organizing themselves for the future. Barnes wrote but did not publish these stories during that time. Some have been published recently, but Barnes has also taken the time to season many of them until the publication of this collection. Readers might also want to check out Barnes’s 2017 novel, Jane Among Friends, which also takes place in Africa.

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