I got What is the What from my friend Tiffany as a Christmas present. I had wanted to read it for a long time since I really like Dave Eggers. I tried reading it several months ago but couldn't cope because it seemed too dark and depressing. The book starts with a Sudanese refugee being mugged in his own house in America. I mean the poor guy lives through famine, violence, refugee camps and finally makes it to the U.S., only to be mugged in his own house!
I picked the book back up while I was visiting my dad the weekend before last. It is incredibly well-written and tells a very compelling story, that of the Sudanese lost boys. An entire generation of Sudanese males lost their families to civil war violence and had to walk hundreds of miles out of the country until they found safety at refugee camps in Kenya. Even then, they faced many struggles in just day to day living. A large number of Sudanese relocated to the United States and are now trying to make lives for themselves here.
The voice of the main character (Achak Deng) is very compelling and the story that he tells is amazing. Eggers does a good job of interweaving an interesting storyline but also explaining the political back story on how the violence in Sudan got started in the first place.
I highly recommend this book but don't try to read it when you are already depressed. In the end it is an amazingly positive book because Achak Deng is such an amazing person. But on the way, a lot of terrible things happen to him and it is hard to read through if you are already down in the dumps.