What is the What by Dave Eggers

There are about four books in my entire adult life that I haven't finished, A Hologram For the King by Dave Eggers being one of them (also one of the only books I have ever purchased blindly because the edition was so epic and beautiful). So when What is the What was picked for my work-book-club, I was outraged (less dramatic, but general dread) and certain that we had made a mistake. My favorite thing about book clubs (all four times I have collecivtly participated) is that we generally read things I would never read on my own, so if it turns out a good read, its 5X better. What is the What was amazing and I gladly admit I was wrong for hopping off the Eggers train. 

The story is hardly fiction- but categorized as so because the narrator felt that retelling the story 15+ years later wasn't certainly accurate in regards to specific dialogue, but no parts were embellished from his memory.  The heart-wrenching story follows Valentino, a Sudanese refugee both during his time in Sudan as a young boy, fleeing from war, and his time in America in his early twenties, adjusting to American culture. He has an unbelievable story weaving through misfortune and optimism- possibly the most insane luck (both tragic and fortunate) that I have ever heard. Life for Valentino was so extreme that reading it truly became an escape because it was so beyond anything I could comprehend; a specific excerpt explains seeing ice for the first time, and how when Valentine first moved to the States, they bought tampons at the grocery story and displayed them in their home because the packaging was so beautiful. 


“I will not wait to love as best as I can. We thought we were young and that there would be time to love well sometime in the future. This is a terrible way to think. It is no way to live, to wait to love.” 
― Dave EggersWhat is the What


The book sent me on a roller-coaster of emotions; disbelief, humor, embarrassment, and astonishment. It was such a beautiful and fascinating read; while I wasn't necessarily rushing home to finish it, I couldn't particularly put it down either. It takes alot to be moved to tears when reading and I shed some serious tears towards the end. Eggers carried the voice of someone completely out of his own realm so perfectly I changed my entire perspective on him and was SO thankful this book was chosen for my little group to read. The entire time I was reading it, I knew it would be one of those stories that I missed as soon as it was finished. I highly suggest it.