The Unfinished Life of N. by Micah Cawber
In the tradition of Flannery O'Connor, The Unfinished Life of N. scrutinizes the quiet ambitions of normal people, their everyday fictions concerning others' and their own humanity and goodness, as it follows Nafula, the innocent but not naïve protagonist, from the backwoods of Wisconsin to AIDS-stricken regions of sub-Saharan Africa, and, after a rehabilitation program at a Mental Health home, a chance encounter forces her to reckon with the the terrible speed of mercy.
Review of The Unfinished Life of N.:
“How many worlds are there?” asks Nafula, the protagonist of Micah Cawber’s fine new novel, The Unfinished Life of N. "Three", responds her mother, adamant about the much belabored division between First and Third Worlds. Nafula, "she who comes with the rain," is a woman whose life has been wrenched from the machinery through which all our lives must turn. After traveling from Wisconsin to Africa and back, Nafula is able to see what we, who are so deeply invested in that machinery, are unable to see: the world of “the information orgy” that is contemporary living. The Unfinished Life of N. is the kind of fiction described by Chesterton as a necessity—necessary because it reveals what is beautiful and true in the world. Nafula continues her line of questioning: "Where does one world end and the other begin?" While it is easy to respond in the geopolitical terms by which the question is framed, the possibility for a much greater awareness is at stake. There are, for example, public worlds and private worlds, but they are all part of the one world we all share, through which all our other worlds are made. Cawber, through Nafula, is able to help us see these worlds anew; read this book, and understand again "the wrestle of body and word" by which real meaning might be made of our lives.—Brian Jobe, author of Bird's Nest in Your Hair