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She Would Be King

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  256 Ratings  ·  53 Reviews
A novel of exhilarating range, magical realism, and history—a dazzling retelling of Liberia’s formation.

Wayétu Moore’s powerful debut novel, She Would Be King, reimagines the dramatic story of Liberia’s early years through three unforgettable characters who share an uncommon bond. Gbessa, exiled from the West African village of Lai, is starved, bitten by a viper, and left
Hardcover, 312 pages
Published September 11th 2018 by Graywolf Press
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Terena Bell This is not YA, but I would say high school or above. IMO, any group mature enough to read SCARLET LETTER, THE CRUCIBLE, or a similar classic would be…moreThis is not YA, but I would say high school or above. IMO, any group mature enough to read SCARLET LETTER, THE CRUCIBLE, or a similar classic would be fine.(less)

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Jul 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
"I'n mean to hurt you. I thought you mean to hurt me..."

This is such a beautiful, magical read. I found myself completely engulfed in the retelling of the beginning of Liberia and felt so connected to my family, ancestors, and history in a way that simply took my breath away. This is a piece of historical fiction that I will carry on my spirit for a long time.

The story starts in 1831 with Gbessa, the witch being exiled from her Vai village for being cursed. While she is shunned from everyone, th
Imagine Homegoing ON CRACK!

I am not sure why there isn't a bigger hype surrounding Wayetu Moore's debut novel She Would Be King because it is absolutely enthralling. While I don't like comparing books, for some reason this book reminded me of how I felt reading Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. I felt a pounding in my chest and fluttering in my stomach as I asked myself while reading this book- "what magic is this book?!" . I was reminded of how I felt when I was younger and I opened a book I know
Sep 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc
!!! full review -

3.5 stars rounded up. I’d love to know what Liberians and Liberian-Americans think of this novel, as they would probably better understand the nuances of the story. I can confidently say I will read anything by Wayétu Moore, and that this debut is a lovely ode to the country of Liberia and Liberian womanhood, through Gbessa’s complex characterization.
Aug 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Wow. Just, wow. What a powerful and magical read. A retelling of the creation of Liberia featuring 3 heartbreaking and mystical characters; Gbessa who has the gift (or curse) of immortality, June Dey who has super strength and is bulletproof (similar to Luke Cage, but during slavery. Plus, I will NEVER stop feeling all of the things when consuming media about bullet proof black men), and Norman who, like his mother, has the ability to become invisible. Meanwhile, we're following the narrator who ...more
Stacey A.  Prose and Palate
Sep 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018-reads
No words. Incredible. Review to come.
Charlotte (charandbooks)
Gbessa, a Vai girl, is said to be cursed because she was born on a day when a fellow tribe member suspected of witchcraft died and is thus exiled from her tribe but survives against all odds. Charlotte, a Virginia slave, dies while trying to protect a fellow slave that has lost both wife and child but her son June Dey is able to flee from the plantation due to his superhuman strength. Norman Aragon is born in Jamaica as the child of a forced relationship between a British researcher and Maroon s ...more
Sep 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
3.5, rounded up.
Linda Robinson
Oct 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Compelling storytelling with such power, the scenes leap off the page into your senses. More later when I start breathing normally again...

Analyzing data from the space exploration vehicles we've been lucky to have working in the cosmos, scientists find new planets. Exomoons. Reading this debut novel is like finding a new big thing in the universe. I've never liked the phrase "magical realism" - I think everything's magic and the characters we are fortunate to share time with - Gbessa, June Dey,
Aug 23, 2018 rated it liked it
She Would Be King has a deeply mystical quality, punctuated by visceral episodes of brutality as it weaves a tale of oppression, magic, and freedom that spans an ocean. Part history, part magical realism, this book brings together an African witch cast out by her village, an American slave born in unusual circumstances, and a bi-racial Jamaican with a white rapist for a father, all with unusual abilities. The narrative tackles difficult subjects head on and has several beautifully written sectio ...more
Susan Henderson
Mar 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: loved-it
This magical retelling of Liberia’s beginning is so original, so bold and poetic, Wayétu Moore is destined for comparisons to Yann Martel, Markus Zusak, and Paulo Coelho. Her unforgettable heroine, Gbessa, leads those who’ve been stripped of their homes and their language to rise up and defend not only their own futures but the memory of those who would never see freedom.
Sep 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Loved it!

This debut novel by Wayétu Moore is not at all in what I would call my preferred genre. I’m not particularly into fantasy or adventure or historical fiction. That said when Amazon recommended this to me when it was released, something about it grabbed my attention and I had to give it a read. Good decision making on my part because I absolutely loved this novel.

The novel is in two “books” or two parts if you will. The first (titled “The Three”) is a sort of background coming of age stor
This was a 3.5 read for me.

Thoughts coming shortly
Lekeisha The Booknerd
Sep 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
I have no doubts that She Would Be King will be loved by many. And, on that note, if you are a fan of Yaa Gyasi's Homegoing - or any literary masterpiece of the like - then this book should be on your TBR.

Liberia's history told in magical locution. It doesn't get any better than that. I loved Gbessa's voice and strength, as well as June Day's. My only problem was the way the story ended. Not that it was bad, but it seemed to abruptly stop. Or maybe that's me being greedy. Still, this book is ma
The story of three individuals from around the globe all having to face the unspeakable find themselves gathered together all striving for the freedom they and all humans deserve. She Would Be King explores the liberation of Liberia, it's relationship to Europe, Jamaica and the United States through magical realism, symbolism, and metaphors.
Chris Roberts
Aug 01, 2018 rated it did not like it
They Bury the Faraway Children
Ride red highway,
child laying in the backseat,
breathe, not breathe - shallow
turn onto overgrown path,
ground rock-hard, dig, dig - shallow,
ride red highway.

Chris Roberts, God Suddenly
Neelam Babul
Oct 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was a magical retelling of the real situation in Liberia. It is incredibly original, unique and poetically written. It was so gripping to read about Gbessa, Norman and Moses, the three individuals gifted with powers that will free Liberia from external invasion and help their home country gain independence. Gbessa is a powerful female figure and I love stories where women are powerfully motivated and transcend their abilities to fight for their family, love and their motherland.

Together th
Paperback Paris
Sep 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
—The review below was authored by Paperback Paris Contributor, Madison Troyer. Read more.

Responsibility is a tough row to hoe. Thinking deeply about one’s life, often leads to lots of questions about responsibility: How responsible am I for the person I am? How much of that responsibility falls on other people and the way they’ve treated me and the situations they’ve put me through? How much responsibility do I have toward other people? These sorts of questions rest at the core of Wayétu Moore’s
Sep 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Sep 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I want to write something brilliant to describe my time with this book. I want to reach in my mind and find the precise words to express the feelings this book made me feel. Alas, I am left wanting. Suffice it to say, "She Would Be King" is one of the best books I've read this year. The book was so handsomely written it should be read out loud. I can only hope Ms. Moore is somewhere dreaming up her next novel.
Megan Bell
Jun 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018
A cursed witch from the Vai tribe who cannot die, a slave from Virginia with the strength of a hundred men, a half-white Maroon from Jamaica who can disappear at will, these three surprising characters find their way to each other and to a newborn Liberia to fight for liberty in this magical realist debut from Wakétu Moore. I’ve never read anything like this before, a fascinating way to learn more about history and specifically Liberia!
Oct 03, 2018 added it
Shelves: 2018
Not really sure how to rate this book. Like many reviewers, I would say probably a 3.5. I appreciated Moore's attempt to address the critical issues surrounding the founding of Liberia. I particularly loved Gbessa and would have probably preferred a whole book dedicated to her story, though I understand the impetus to feature characters with different origin stories that mirror the different peoples of Liberia. Overall, it felt like the narrative structure was strained, and some of the magical r ...more
Sep 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. It was a little confusing in that it takes a while for the different stories to intertwine, but the result is satisfying. Definitely recommend if you enjoy a kind of meandering narrative.
Sarah Benson
Oct 04, 2018 rated it liked it
Disjointed and didn't hold my interest. This book sounded great, and I loved the first section, but then it started jumping to other storylines. Even when the plotlines started to intersect, I was slightly confused and not very invested in the characters. Disappointing.
Sep 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
She Would Be King was such a surprising and lovely book. It is a retelling of Liberia’s creation story in vivid beautifully written detail. It is a captivating story that I could not put down.
Kim N
Sep 19, 2018 rated it liked it
This was a bit of a strange story, and strangely told. At first, I didn't think I was going to like it, but by the end, it won me over.
Sep 06, 2018 marked it as to-read
~King's English Indie Next List Sept 2018
Terena Bell
Aug 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is an absolutely beautiful novel and one of the best I picked up at BookExpo. SHE WOULD BE KING is a magical realism telling of Liberia's creation story. But to describe it that way doesn't do it justice: The novel portrays the injustice inflicted on African women across time and place without being preachy or overtly political. Instead, it uses the power of story to show how these women are no one's victims -- they are a driving, creation force.
Morgan McComb
Jul 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It's hard to describe a novel as wholly original as She Would Be King: a re-telling of the birth of Liberia through interconnected stories, the novel is history, magic, and myth all in one engrossing story. Moore's novel takes you from West Africa to the plantations of Virginia, Jamaica to Liberia, weaving together the stories of three characters that yearn for power and true freedom. Guided by the ancient wind, all of Moore's characters challenge and transcend the many faces of oppression, and ...more
Alicia Maria
Oct 08, 2018 rated it liked it
I wanted so badly to LOVE this book. This is a debut novel with a mystical bent about the founding of Liberia, something I, admittedly and unfortunately, know little about. The three main characters whose journeys we follow throughout the book are compelling. Gbessa, an indigenous woman who can't die; Norman Aragon, a biracial man who can disappear; and June Dey, a boy of questionable origin born on a plantation in America who is, basically, Superman. Each one had an emotional, riveting back sto ...more
Sep 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2018
I have so much emotion tied with reading this book I don’t know that I can do it justice with a brief review. The reader is led through this story by three characters who have been endowed with special powers—Gbessa, June Dey, and Norman. This is a culture where the wind speaks, a witch is born, and a boy child discovers he has superhuman strength. Storytelling, magical realism and fantasy are an integral part of this life; there are also the horrors of slavery and brutal tribal clashes. This is ...more
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Wayétu Moore is the founder of One Moore Book and is a graduate of Howard University, Columbia University, and the University of Southern California. She teaches at the City University of New York’s John Jay College and lives in Brooklyn.
“Loneliness while in the presence of others is a most cruel kind.” 1 likes
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