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She Would Be King

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  707 ratings  ·  134 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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Sarah Jessica Parker
This beautiful novel dazzles and makes you want to lock yourself away and only read. Ms. Moore illuminates what it means to be of and from places that are both faraway and inescapably familiar. She took me away from the chaos of our world and it was hard to leave her's. A Book Club Central pick!
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
Nov 18, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: usa, liberia, 2018-read
When a beautiful special edition of Moore's debut was delivered to me as part of Powell's Indiespensable collection, I was stoked: Finally a novel about the foundation of Liberia, a fascinating country I had learnt about when I was part of an (American) Model UN team representing Liberia at National Model United Nations. And Moore does talk about the complicated history of this state, envisioned as a "free colony" at the African coast, a place were free slaves could settle. The three protagonist ...more

This a tough review to write because my feelings on this book are so mixed. On one hand I learned a terrific amount about the foundation story of Liberia. A story that has been rarely explored in fiction. I thought it was interesting that a recent NYT article aligned

Moore’s potential legacy to that of the Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, whose novels about Nigeria reignited popular interest in the country’s stories. “She is cracking that space in America for Liberian writers”

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
Nov 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Magical realism meets Marvel action movie to create a mythic fable of nationhood.

Wayétu Moore’s debut, She Would Be King, infuses the historical founding of Liberia with tales of spirits, wanderers and strange happenings. In true superhero style, each of the key figures has a tragic backstory, and the first half of She Would Be King relates their origin stories in turn. Mothers are central to Moore, so the three tales all begin with a mother and an auspicious birth. Each of the three infants gr
Dec 02, 2018 rated it it was ok
"Norman took off his shoes and placed his feet in the water, stiffening from its rigidity."

If this sentence appeals to you - grammatically and atmospherically - then you may enjoy this book.

"...mostly he just sat on a rock near some cultivated land farthest from the cluster of houses on three rows of hills, watching and writing ardently, as two or three sailors looked askance."

If you find this tolerable - structurally and descriptively - then you may enjoy this book.

"When the morning meals were
Nov 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Beautifully written blend of West African and Western story telling in this novel of Liberia’s founding. Definitely an author to keep an eye on.
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
Stacey A.  Prose and Palate
Sep 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018-reads
No words. Incredible. Review to come.
Katie Long
Dec 02, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: owned-unread
Sigh. I really thought I would love this one. There are some brilliant elements and the story is a fascinating one, however it just never quite comes together convincingly. The pacing is very strange as well. At times, it feels so rushed that the characters aren’t developed and at others, it feels weighted and plodding. 2.5 rounded up.
Megan C.
Nov 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: best-of-2018
Absolutely loved this book - check out my IG account @whatmeganreads for my full review. I think this would make an AMAZING book club book - there is so much to discuss and I think you'll be surprised at how much you have learned by the end.
I feel so bad for not liking this book. It has so many positive reviews and I just could not get into it at all. It was more of a 2.5 star read than 3 😕
Oct 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Incredible. Beautifully written, compelling and magical tale.
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,
Nov 27, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: indiebuddyreads
3.5* rounded down

Possible thoughts to follow
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.
Charlotte (charandbooks)
Oct 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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.
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
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
This was a 3.5 read for me.

Thoughts coming shortly
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.
Rachel (tablereading)
Nov 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
“That was when my father told me that freedom as a Negro man was different. I was free, you see, he assured me, but there were some places where I could act free and some places where I could not act free.”

She Would Be King fictionalizes the formation of Liberia through the stories of three black characters who each have some form of power that protects, but also isolates them. Their stories are told separately and narrated by the wind who is her own character with her own story. Moore’s abilit
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
Kelly Hager
Oct 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful! Thought-provoking and a page-turner. I can't recommend it highly enough.
Kim Becker
Nov 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
***4.5 STARS!***

‘”The girl with the biggest gift of us all. Life. If she was not a girl or if she was not a woman; if she was not a woman or if she was not a witch, she would be king.”’

This book is a beautiful example of historical fact mixed with magical writing, telling a poignant story while teaching the readers about a people different than their own. I don’t usually gravitate towards novels including magical realism, but this book drew me in with its soul. Moore tells a piece of Liberian hi
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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.” 2 likes
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